Food & Culture Food

The Japanese Have the Highest Life Expectancy, yet They Seem to Have No Problem Asking for Seconds When it Comes to MSG or Gluten

Japan ranks in the top 3 for life expectancy, whereas the U.S. ranks on average 37th. For obesity, 12th highest for the most obese in the world versus Japan 185th place. Yet, do not worry, bro, because you are gluten and MSG-free. Also, do yourself a favor and just cut back on the sodium.

Originally posted on November 22nd, 2018. Updated on Monday, May 22nd, 2023

Japanese food loves glutamate-rich ingredients, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) is its cousin and where umami comes from (psst, ancient Japanese secret). By the way, the two are fam like Dominic Toretto and crew, so both are metabolized by the human body using the same processes.

Japanese cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world (not the Americanized version), yet the Japanese diet is filled with natural glutamates, tasty sodium salt of glutamic acid (MSG), and gluten because noodles and soy sauce in Japan utilize wheat.

It is not a surprise that we Americans converted Japanese food into food for people who need fetching sticks and diabetes medication.
Ranking data is by Britannica

On top of that, the Japanese are not short on gluten because it is in most noodle dishes and soy sauce, yet they are outliving Americans and being less of a fatass while living their tentacle-loving hentai life.

Except, we Muricans get to claim that our fat dead bodies contain no added MSG, they are gluten-free, and make a fantastic organic fertilizer in the end, so much winning.

Photo Description: a bunch of konbu is hanging in an area of Japan during it's natural processing to be used for consumption. Konbu is a natural producer of MSG.
Konbu is a natural producer of glutamates from mushrooms to tomatoes, so you can not get more natural than that.

Table of Contents

Scroll away or click away via the table of content.

Glutamates Occur Naturally in Many Plants and Proteins

The human body also naturally contain glutamates which act as neurotransmitters vital for brain function and metabolism.

MSG occurs naturally in many foods, such as tomatoes and cheeses. Today, instead of extracting and crystallizing MSG from seaweed broth, MSG is produced by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses.”

Sodium Salt of Glutamic Acid

MSG is not some Walter White level of complexity like a “medication” used for ADHD or narcolepsy.

Salt (Sodium Chloride): a flavor enhancer, a preservative, and essential element for human health. Glutamatic Acid: is one of the most abundant amino acids and proteins and are the building blocks of life.Monosodium + Glutamic Acid: a flavor enhancer and can be used to reduce the amount of sodium.
Neurotransmitters help your body function from breathing to learning and memory. If that is the case, it does not seem like it is disrupting Asians and Asian Americans academically.

Glutamates occur naturally and Italian cuisine is also saturated in savory glutamate-rich ingredients like cheese (parmesan to mozzarella), tomatoes, pepperoni, anchovies, and mushrooms (yea, that pizza is a G bomb).

  • Other foods that naturally contain glutamates: asparagus, peas, broccoli, sweet corn, leeks, pecans, walnuts, mushrooms, milk, nuts (walnuts), cheese, wheat, grape juice, and proteins: seafood, chicken, beef, and especially dry-aged meats to name a few. Additional information can be found on

American Food Producers and Restaurants Love to Use MSG

Here are ONLY a few American food producers and restaurants that utilize MSG although more should:

Regardless if glutamates occur naturally in nature and in your body, or if people use MSG globally, it is not uncommon to hear people asking: “Do you use MSG” at an Asian restaurant in the United States. Yet it is used in processed foods like salad dressings, sauces, seasonings, and at restaurants such as KFC, and Applebees, to your local eatery.

Since MSG is associated with Chinese food, to many non-Asians, it is seen as a scary and a foreign ingredient by a select group even though it is natural and plant-based.


Nothing says tasty and American like MSG at your local American restaurant which is not exclusive to processed or fast food because many local eateries use processed food (those deep-fried goodies are not all that without a tasty MSG-laden dipping sauces which are typically not made in-house).

  • Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, KFC, Popeye’s, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Applebee’s.

Why so many complaints about Chinese food and MSG? Unlike Italian food, Americanized Chinese food has a ton of sauce, typically made of soy sauce (jiàng yóu) and oyster sauce (háo yóu) with high amounts of sodium. So instead of avoiding MSG, seek out Chinese food eaten by the Chinese community, which is not typically as sweet and salty.

The Chinese invented soy sauce and it was a way to stretch a valuable ingredient at the time, salt.

Food Producers

This list and the way it is used as a flavor enhancer to reducing salt content for processed meats to reduce the sodium content are just a few beneficial uses by food processors.

  • Campbells Soups and condensed broths (canned soups), Doritos and several flavored chips like Pringles® Sour Cream & Onion Crisps (chips), Accent seasoning, Goya Sazón (seasoning), a lot of salad dressings (dressings), and Cool ranch Doritos, Dean’s French Onion Dip, to Tostitos Medium Queso Blanco dip, (condiments). NOTE: many sources cite mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and mayonnaise for having MSG, but there has not been any prominent brands that I could find that contain outright MSG (they may have switched to synthetic sources).
  • Other names that flavor enhancers go by and where glutamates may occur naturally (marketers workaround to MSG): natural flavours or seasonings, natural beef or chicken flavouring, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP contain upwards of 10-30% MSG), hydrolyzed milk, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, protein isolate, plant protein, and textured vegetable protein may contain MSG.
  • MSG vs. HVP: “While MSG and HVP are commonly used interchangeably to refer to the same ingredient, MSG is only a component of HVP. HVP may contain as much as 20% glutamate and 45% sodium, whereas MSG contains approximately 80% glutamate and 12% sodium.” – by

MSG contains just one third the sodium of table salt (MSG contains approximately 12 percent sodium while table salt contains 39 percent sodium) is used to reduce salt content without sacrificing on taste.

MSG was invented by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda and commercialized by the Japanese company Ajinomoto. More information can be found on their website.
15339114268_4e9fd2685b_k. A lareg warehouse of mushrooms are being grown.
If vegans and vegetarians use mushrooms, it must be because they love glutamates, or it is because of the phallic-looking appeal of the ingredient, you decide. This epic image is by Alison Harrington.

Trust in Food Producers or Millennia Old Tried-and-True Food Cultures

We Americans have made “NO MSG” a thing, but why would we take health advice from an American food culture based on companies standing to profit or individuals with an agenda?

We Muricans are a food culture of fads and trends because the United States is barely 250 years old with diverse ethnic roots and no cohesive food culture. In comparison, Japan has been around for approximately 2,700 years to figure things out, like not being on the fence on the McRib.

Japan was also a vegan/vegetarian country for approximately 1,200 years, and shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine) reflects that history.

Also, what defines American food culture, a gluten-free Italian American pizza, a Dorito Locos taco, or the Iranian American-invented Hot Pocket? Whatever you say it is, the three former cuisines, Italian, Mexican, and Persian (the nationality of the inventor), are some of the healthiest cuisines, which should not be confused with the Americanized versions.

It is hilarious and sad that healthy eating to a select few in the US means reducing your diet to omitting gluten and/or MSG (what I call virtue dieting), but which ethnic roots is that regiment from? Oh, the big money roots, which is why all too many product marketers use those icons on everything, even if it is not pertinent such as gluten-free water.

In the past, vegan diets in Japan and present-day India (Southern) were due to religious beliefs, Hinduism in India, and Buddhism in Japan.

Every other country around the globe has a tried and true food culture spanning over a couple of millennia, many with an equal or a lengthier span of history than Japan. Yet American businesses, from restaurants to food processors, have constantly touted how they have a healthier product or diet to sell you. Yea, sure you do.

The Magic Pill or the American Virtue Diet

Go down an aisle of a “health food” store, and almost every product will have labels espousing what it does not contain: “No MSG, gluten-free, and non-GMO.”

Americans tend to think one single ingredient, a super food, or excluding 2-3 ingredients (like gluten and MSG) will be the secret formula to a healthy lifestyle because every company wants to sell us the easy button or a magic pill

So is “no MSG” the easy button? Like with any challenge, it takes a concerted effort.

That tiny little criteria of what not to eat for many Americans will deem a healthier and more virtuous lifestyle. Everything to stand out amongst the crowd, the checkout aisle, to their friends as an elite.

The intent of “no MSG” are tools for marketers to market and sell products and may have nothing to do with being healthier. If you do not believe that, you probably think American companies are benevolent and not driven by profits, and you will want to ignore the fact that the largest class action lawsuit payouts were of consumer products from tobacco, talcum baby powder, Fen-phen diet drug.

What Does the Media Have to Say About MSG

So, to make heads or tails of this ominous ingredient from the Orient (“Orient” because that is an old school term for the mentality of the fear of Japanese-based food ingredients), included are four quotes. One from a media outlet, an independent source, and a global-hyper-mega-net corporation provide a range of opinions on MSG. All cherry-picked for you, but you are welcome to do the research yourself.

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The Guardian

The Guardian has an article titled “If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?” That title, I have to have to give credit where credit is due and that quote came from Jeffrey Steingarten, American Vogue (bravo, good sir).

“If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?

– Jeffrey Steingarten”

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One Christian Ministry

Well I guess if you’re part of One Christian Ministry you find it to be un-godly.

“It is NOT simply a food additive, but a un-godly manipulation of the physical taste buds, scent (smell) receptors, digestive tract and brain.”

– One Christian Ministry

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On the other hand, mega unethical companies like Nestle’s is touting it helps to reduce the use of sodium.

“However, MSG contains only about one-third the amount of sodium as table salt (13 percent vs. 40 percent) and so where we use it in products, in combination with a small amount of table salt, MSG can help reduce the total amount of sodium in a recipe by 20% to 40%, while maintaining an enhanced flavour.”


So whatever conclusion you come to, the Japanese have had foods high in glutamates for several centuries and MSG in the form of Ajinomoto for over a century. 

“MSG is the sodium salt of Glutamic acid and one of the many forms of glutamate.”


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I think Adam Savage’s website phrased it the best’esss’esssssss’seeeess (that is a word):

“MSG, a better tasting salt.”


Yup, Still Opinion

With any subject matter, there is data-driven science, and then there is opinion. Even though I have provided multiple sources, it is still an opinion, unlike many other small health or self-proclaimed all-natural blogger or product sites like Radiantlifecatalog tend to imply as a fact with “don’t be naive” and “don’t be fooled” (so adamant). 

These individuals and businesses will paint MSG as “extremely addictive,” with multiple symptoms, including weight gain, and “In the long term, consumption has been linked to obesity,” which goes against Japan and the low obesity.

Articles by back that “Cutting the Fat: Why is Japan’s Obesity Rate So Low?” but are only provided for you to figure it out yourself.

The biggest use of MSG in the world is in Asia (86%, and China accounting for 53.5%) and the other countries/regions consist of 2-4% of the global consumption each: Nigeria, the United States, Brazil, Mexico, the Middle East, and Western Europe.

MSG consumption is data based on S&P Global, Commodity Insights.

What Is the Possible Cause of MSG Symptoms? Yea, Not Strictly Racism

In labs, they have not been able to reproduce the results people claim to have with any consistency, and this would be a wild guess is simple as to why (yea, not that).

“The side effects of it can range from frequent to mild headaches, water retention/bloating, swelling, dehydration (you are thirsty), and your foods start to taste more bland.” I will tell you that MAYBE YOU ARE TAKING IN TOO MUCH SODIUM?!

Yea, I went uppercase for this one.

I know I do not have to explicitly say I am far from being a doctor, and they have not been able to reproduce the symptoms because the studies are not solely on MSG versus overall sodium intake? That is my wild speculation, but it could not hurt to cut back on sodium found in table salt and other products (ketchup, soy sauce, bbq sauce, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, etc).

Headache, quick, fluttering heartbeats, chest painYour blood pressure is high (severe headaches, chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breaking, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, anxiety, confusion, buzzing in the ears, nosebleeds, abnormal heart rhythm)
Flushing and sweating, lack of feeling (numbness), tingling or burning in the face, neck and other areasYou are puffy or swelling
Face pressure or tightnessWeight gain and water retention
Frequent urination
Restless sleep
Weakness feelingWeakness feeling
Feeling sick or nauseaStomach issues
Excessive salt symptoms from WebMD and MSG via the Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure via the World Health Organization (WHO).

The side effects of a diet high in sodium can range from frequent to mild headaches, water retention/bloating, swelling, dehydration (you are thirsty), and your foods start to taste bland. I do not know about you, but that is what most people complain about MSG causing.

All Backed Up with the Research Below

From the World Health Organization to the United Nations has ranked the United States life expectancy: *53rd (Japan was ranked #2), **31st (Japan was ranked #1), to ***43rd (Japan was ranked #1)

– World Health Organization
A 48-piece wings and bottomless bucket of fries is nothing like a kaiseki course which has a variety of seasonal food from multiple food groups versus just two. Image by Kinosaki Onsen

Most will scrutinize if there is MSG in their food but not have any issue with a bucket of fries and 20 chicken wings all washed down with unlimited soda refills. So which country can you date this diet back a couple of centuries to?

More people should be concerned with sugar and the American diet because the Samoan people know from firsthand experience, and here is how the American diet negatively impacted the Samoan people.

The healthiest countries in the world according to 24/7 Wall St.

The metrics included health, access, and economy.

  • 1) Qatar: life expectancy of 77.6 (28th highest)
  • 5) Japan: life expectancy of 79.9 (4th highest)
  • The rest was mostly Norwegian countries with Singapore being the only other Asian country to make the list.

For the full list, you will have to go to USA Today for the full article “The healthiest countries in the world” because the article on 24/7 Wall St. requires you to click multiple pages to see their list (it’s annoying, so you’re welcome).

Unlike what misguided media outlets, food bloggers, and food processors think, the Japanese eat noodles made primarily from wheat (udon, somen, ramen, and nihachi soba), not rice. Rice noodles are used throughout Southeast Asia (yea, all Asians are not the same).

How little do American food producers and marketers understand? Very little because they call all Asian instant noodles from all over Asia (51 countries) as “ramen.” Ramen is just one type of Japanese noodle, and it does not mean instant noodle.
Soba noodles are eaten in Japanese culture on New Year’s to symbolize having a long life. So do not feel guilty asking: “Please, sir, I want some more,” like Oliver Twist, who got fed gruel, which is also gluten-filled. Image by Christian Kadluba aka Pok Pok.

*According to Geoba, these are the countries with the longest life expectancy, top 100 (2018)

  • 1) Monaco: 89.37
  • 2) Japan: 85.52
  • 53) United States: 79.25

For the full list, and to learn more about who “Geoba” is, you can click the link which has a number of top 100’s.

The ingredients of popular Japanese products are simple: Kikkoman Soy Sauce: soybeans, wheat, salt and water. Yet, try comparing those ingredients to a popular American product such as ranch dressing.

Hidden Valley Ranch dressing ingredients: Salt, Onion*, Modified Food Starch, Sugar, Garlic*, Spices, Maltodextrin, Buttermilk, Dextrose, Less than 2% of: Natural & Artificial Flavors, Lactic Acid, Calcium Lactate, Guar Gum, Disodium, Inosinate & Guanylate, Calcium Stearate. *Dried

I have an in-depth article on Japanese food ingredients.

“*MSG is not an intentionally added ingredient; certain ingredients may naturally contain glutamates” via the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing website that they tout as “No MSG.”

Most Americans are used to downing buckets of soda because it is so widely available in vending machines to restaurants, but you will not find that throughout Japan. Image by (c)Tomo.Yun (if you can check out this photographer who provides royalty free imagery!)

Celiac disease is real and no joke, but for many Americans, a gluten-free diet may be part of the virtue diet because “the dangers of gluten have probably been overstated — and oversold. – Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Harvard Medical School

Do we really think companies would profit off of something like gluten-free?

**Life expectancy by the World Health Organization (2015)

  • 1) Japan: 83.7
  • 31) United States: 79.3

You can find the full list on Wikipedia.

***Life expectancy by the United Nations from 2010-2015

  • 1) Japan: 83.74
  • 43) United States: 78.8

You can find the full list on Wikipedia.

Does sashimi fall under what us Muricans consider the “raw foods diet.” Image by (c)Tomo.Yun

Is MSG big business? Why yes, it is, and I cite that because that would be hypocritical if I did not, although that side of peas, Caesar salad with anchovies and Parmesan cheese, and a dry-aged steak come packed with glutamates as a “freebie.”

Ningxia Eppen Biotech Co., Ltd, COFCO Biochemical, Ajinomoto Co., Inc, Meihua Holdings Group Co., Ltd, and Cargill, Incorporated, among others, are the major players in the global sodium glutamate market.” via

How do the United States and Japan rank on overall mean BMI (body mass index)

A healthy weight range:18.5-24.9

  • 1) Nauru (Micronesia), 32.5kg/m² is the most obese and overweight country.
  • 17th) United States, 28.8kg/m²
  • 166) Japan, 22.6kg/m²

The data was compiled by the World Health Organization in 2014, and you can view their total findings here on Wikipedia or through an article on MSN which utilizes the same resources.

How about comparing the healthiest cuisines in the world according to

  • 1) Greek
  • 2) Japan

For the full top 10 list, you’ll want to go to

Shabu shabu broth utilizes konbu, yet all of Japan does not whine about a headache after eating it. Image by Christian Kadluba used under CC.

Last but not least, a promotion for Uncle Roger, aka Nigel Ng (linked to the episode with Gordon Ramsay with 29M views), because it will give you an idea of how prevalent MSG is in Asia as he takes on Jaime Oliver, to Gordon Ramsay’s take on Asian cuisine.

If you want to learn a thing or two about Asia, the last thing you will want to do is follow Christopher Kimball, haiya!

Additional Resources

I went through each source to see if I could come to a consensus, and I have included my thoughts on each article (links are provided, so that you can go and check it out for yourself).

  • BBC: “Is MSG as bad as it’s made out to be?” Excerpt: “So while nothing is ever truly laid to rest in science – and Dr John Olney spent much of his life after his early animal experiments campaigning for tighter regulation of MSG use – the FDA now says the addition of MSG to foods is GRAS, or ‘Generally Recognised As Safe’.”
  • Difference Between, “Difference Between MSG and Salt”: Excerpt: “the key difference between MSG and salt is that the MSG (monosodium glutamate) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid whereas salt is primarily sodium chloride.”
  • David Chang, “Chef David Chang on the Joy of Cooking With Science”. Excerpt: “We’ve been brainwashed to believe that science is scary. Just think about MSG, which has been banned in certain cities and provokes an irrational fear in many consumers. But it’s just a sodium ion attached to glutamate, which is something your body produces naturally and needs to function.”
  • Food Navigator, “Does MSG have a future in Europe as umami gains flavour favour?” Excerpt: “I live and work in Switzerland where it is very common to have your Aromat alongside the salt and pepper. Eastern European cooking also traditionally uses MSG as a seasoning in home cooking to compliment staple foods such as potatoes, rice, soups and stews.
  • The Guardian, “Chinese restaurant syndrome: has MSG been unfairly demonised?” Excerpt: “The additive monosodium glutamate has been blamed for everything from headaches to chest pain. Now, some chefs, including Heston Blumenthal, are saying that’s nonsense.” On the other end of the dicussion, the article goes on to say that it could potentially make food taste so good, that you become a fatass (I really paraphrased that, and you should really go read this).
  • The Healthy Home Economist, “Chicken Broth “No MSG” Labels Are False,” Excerpt: “Mice fed MSG get morbidly obese. I truly believe, although I have not seen any studies on this yet, that the rampant use of MSG in processed foods plays a big role in the epidemic of fat and obese children in our society today.”
    this is a funny one because it touts that MSG lead to mice becoming morbidly obese, yet isn’t the vast amounts of Asia that uses it nowhere as obese as the U.S.?
  • Healthline“MSG Good or Bad?” This article is very well rounded and the conclusion is “MSG Seems to Be Mostly Harmless.”
  • Mayo Clinic“What is MSG? Is it bad for you?” “However, researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and these symptoms. Researchers acknowledge, though, that a small percentage of people may have short-term reactions to MSG.”
  • Munchies“I’ll Never See Food the Same Way After Living On MSG For a Week”
  • Nestle, “Are MSG and glutamates safe?” Can you really trust Nestle? Well, regardless of the type of company they are, they do cite that the ingredient helps to reduce sodium intake and it is considered safe to use.
  • The New York Times, Yes, MSG, The Secret Behind the Savor
  • Science Friday, Is MSG Bad For Your Health: excerpt: “Then in 2000, researchers conducted the largest double-blind, placebo-controlled study on MSG, consisting of 130 subjects who said they were sensitive to the additive. The researchers found that MSG produced short-lasting and minor reactions in a subset of people—but these could not be reproduced consistently upon retesting.” (Read about more MSG-related experiments in this peer-reviewed essay appearing in Clinical Correlations: The NYU Langone Online Journal of Medicine.)
  • Smithsonian Magazine, It’s the Umami, Stupid. Why the Truth About MSG is So Easy to Swallow “Few remember that the food pariah and hot trend are so closely connected” by Natasha Geiling
  • (Adam Savage), “Why You Should Embrace the Culinary Benefits of MSG.” I like Adam Savage, but the article does not necessarily contribute much more than what is already out there except “another study in 2000 found that glutamate is the single largest contributor to energy generation in your intestines. Meaning the amino acid is an essential element in helping along the digestion of your food.”
  • (Julia Moskin New York Times), “Asian staple MSG is used all over the world, by many names.” It is almost obvious when I read a decent article, and I realize that it came from the New York Times, although this is featured on a Arizona based site.

In Conclusion, All of Asia and the Rest of the World Have No Issue With MSG, Just Americans?

We can all learn from other food cultures around the globe, like Japan, because many are a couple of millennia old, and many do not fear glutamates, MSG, or gluten. Only a few Americans with an American-centric perspective are unaware that companies and profits, agenda-driven “health food” bloggers may dictate that narrative and fear.

If you are Greek, Italian, Swedish, or Maldivian, or from any nationality outside of the US, that native diet should be sought out. Although, to kick things off, check out this dry-aged wagyu in MSG by Guga Foods.

The Holy Grail of American Health Food Guidelines

Follow these guidelines by US food marketer$ and health food blogger$$, or just eat salads cuz “healthy,” and you will attain Elite status. Although, in my opinion, reduce your salt, sugar, and seed oils, except I know nothing, which is why it is my opinion/feelings.

Organic (70-95-100% bruh)
Gluten free
I left out Kosher or Halal because those are legitimate dietary reasons, and if you have health issues (like celiac disease). This is a blanket statement about the business of health in the US.

Over a billion Chinese, 120+ million Japanese, and several hundred million throughout Asia, Latin America, and Western Europe all use MSG or glutamate-rich foods. Well, that does not matter because we Americans market “MSG is bad for you,” even though it is also used extensively in the U.S. cuz of optics bruddah.

#hypocrites #doanythingforabuck (insert Goodfellas laughing hilariously meme here).

sharing is caring
Thank you for the 76 shares before the update! Sharing will help end the fear over Asian-centric ingredients because India, China, Thailand, Indonesia, S. Korea, to the Philippines can throw down on MSG-filled dishes.


  1. This is a really cool post and opens up so much conversation. One thing I noticed during my trips to japan is the “continental breakfast” you get at the hotels. They always serve salad of some sort and it’s always on everyone’s plate and sometimes it’s the only thing on their plate. Subtle, but big difference in giving some insight as to lifestyle differences.

    1. It’s just some Americans think they epitomize or are the authority on all things, yet the numbers and reality don’t reflect that. Ultimately, it’s just companies touting BS things to profit…. my friend and i joke, every time he eats bad, we say, “I’ll just eat a salad.”

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