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Monosodium glutamate (MSG) causes cancer

What you may have heard

Consuming MSG increases your risk of cancer.

What science tells us

MSG is one of the most common food additives. Generally, MSG gives an umami (meat-like) scent and is often added to savory foods to improve their taste and smell (Niaz et al.).

Epidemiological Evidence

MSG has been thoroughly researched, and there have not been any links found between consuming MSG and cancer risk (Niaz et al.). Other studies, however, have looked at possible toxic effects of MSG for the body. Studies have linked MSG consumption to obesity, central nervous system disorders, liver damage, and reproductive malfunctions. While MSG has not been shown to increase the risk of cancer, it might lead to other harmful health effects (Niaz et al.).

Laboratory Evidence/Supporting Evidence

The effects of MSG have been studied in animal models, however, there are limited studies investigating if MSG causes cancer in animals (Zanfirescu et al.).

IARC Carcinogen Classification: Not classified

How to reduce your risk

MSG research has not shown a link to cancer risk. But experts recommend avoiding products that contain MSG because it can lead to other harmful health effects. Check the ingredients of the food you eat, especially “savory” products, as those are most likely to have MSG (Niaz et al.).

Bottom line

MSG does not appear to cause cancer or increase cancer risk.

Niaz et al.: Extensive use of monosodium glutamate: A threat to public health?
Mayo Clinic: What is MSG?


July 7, 2021
Verified/updated: August 22, 2022