A recent study published in the journal “Nutrients” has observed how glutamates such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) affect the sodium intake of the Americans. The results of the study have shown that MSG can be utilized to decrease the sodium in the food supply.
Monosodium glutamate – a tool to reduce salt intake
The study has assessed the data from the NHANES – National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. And has observed the eating habits of the Americans.
The research team has also estimated the reduction in sodium if glutamates (particularly monosodium glutamate) are used as a partial replacement for sodium in specific food categories. Findings have shown that substituting salt with glutamates can lead to a 7 – 8% reduction in sodium intake.
Also, the study results are coherent with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s 2019 DRIs (Dietary Reference Intakes) for Sodium and Potassium report, which suggests MSG as a means to help reduce sodium.
The 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for the Americans suggest that Americans should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern.
On the contrary, nearly 90 percent of Americans are consuming too much sodium. High sodium intake can increase blood pressure, and high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Taylor C. Wallace is the lead researcher in the study and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University. According to him, restaurant meals and packaged foods contribute to most of the sodium intake.
Monosodium glutamate can be used to decrease sodium in these foods without affecting their taste. MSG contains nearly 12% sodium, that is 2/3 times lower than that present in table salt.
MSG may improve health outcomes
The data indicate that a 25 – 40% reduction in sodium is possible in certain product categories when MSG is substituted for some salt. Taylor thinks that as Americans begin to realize that MSG is completely safe, there may be a shift toward using it as a substitute for some salt to improve health outcomes.
The research team has used the data from those registered in NHANES between 2013-2016, which involves 16,183 people aged 1 year and older. Moreover, the team has also established an average sodium intake and then used a modeling method to evaluate sodium reduction using glutamate.
For the total population, it was found that replacing glutamate in specific food categories may decrease sodium consumption by nearly 3%. On the contrary, among people with at least one product category with higher sodium levels (liked cured meats), the glutamate addition can reduce sodium consumption by nearly 7 – 8%.
This shows that if salt is replaced with glutamate in products like cured meats, soups, crackers, and meat-based frozen meals, everyone in the US (>1 year of age) will possibly benefit from a reduction in sodium.
Other research indicates that when salt is simply decreased on its own, consumer acceptance of the food or product goes down. But as glutamate provides umami taste, it can decrease sodium without sacrificing taste. Ajinomoto Co., Inc. has funded this study.
The study uses conservative assumptions on the reduction of sodium by replacing glutamates for sodium chloride and does not represent the inclusion of glutamates in restaurant foods, that supply a large quantity of sodium to the US diet. So, the effects of glutamates may be more than what is presented in the study.