The term “Chinese restaurant syndrome” originated with a letter from a physician to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968 speculating that certain physical symptoms — numbness in the limbs, heart palpitations — were due to monosodium glutamate, or MSG in the Chinese food he ate. The term soon took a life of its own, causing many to speculate over the years that that migraine may actually have originated with the noodles from the Chinese takeout place on the corner.

(Chinese restaurant syndrome is still listed in the dictionary; recently tacked on an addendum noting the pejorative nature of the term.)

What is the deal monosodium glutamate, or MSG? Is it as sinister as some people say? Does it give you headaches? Cause you to sweat and your heart to race? Make you sick? Or is fear of MSG, which naturally occurs in food like cheese, tomatoes and walnuts, simply racist and representative of a desire to other-ize immigrants by characterizing their food as dirty and unsafe?

The truth will shock you!