Asthma Facts

MSG & Asthma

MSG & Asthma (PDF)

This fact sheet is designed to inform people with asthma about monosodium glutamate (MSG) which can be a trigger factor for asthma.

A variety of trigger factors can affect people with asthma. MSG is a flavour enhancer that is found naturally in many foods or may be added during manufacture or cooking.

MSG is a trigger that is thought to affect only a small proportion of people with asthma.

Individuals affected by MSG will usually have a reaction in the form of a sudden severe attack of asthma between 6 to 12 hours after the food has been eaten.  There are usually no symptoms of asthma immediately after consumption.

Foods that are high in MSG may upset you, depending on how sensitive you are and how much you eat.

The following foods are considered to have high levels of MSG:

Stock cubes Grapes                                
Yeast extract Broccoli
Cheese flavours Mushrooms
Gravies Tomato sauce
Soy sauce/paste Tasty cheeses
Tomato and vegetable juices Tomatoes
Tomato paste Wine
Black bean sauce Vegemite
Processed meat Packet soups


Source: Friendly Food, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit.

Research shows that the MSG content in Italian foods may be just as high as or higher than Chinese meals.  Many people do not experience asthma symptoms when eating Italian foods.  It is possible that there may be something other than MSG in Asian food that is responsible for the symptoms.

Recent studies have also indicated that MSG is likely to upset people in other ways than asthma.  Research conducted with 135 patients at the Alfred Hospital Asthma Clinic in Victoria shows that MSG was perceived to be the food additive that most commonly increased asthma symptoms.  10% of the respondents were avoiding MSG in their diets and 60% of these people believed this restriction had helped with their asthma control.  Other preliminary results have shown that those who have completed the study have had no positive asthma reaction to MSG.