Chinese restaurant syndrome is an outdated term that refers to a set of symptoms that some people experience after eating in a Chinese restaurant. These symptoms are often attributed to a food additive called monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is used to enhance the flavor of foods. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence showing a link between MSG and these symptoms in humans. Most people can consume foods containing MSG without any problem.
The symptoms of Chinese restaurant syndrome can appear within two hours of consuming foods containing MSG. The symptoms can last from a few hours to a few days. The most common symptoms are:
- Skin flushing
- Feeling of pressure on the face
- Jaw stiffness
- Burning or tingling sensations on some parts of the body
- Chest or back pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Chinese restaurant syndrome is not considered a serious illness, but it can be uncomfortable and annoying for those who suffer from it. There is no specific treatment for this syndrome, but it is possible to relieve the symptoms by drinking plenty of water, taking painkillers or antihistamines, or avoiding foods containing MSG.
MSG is a common food additive that is naturally found in many foods, such as cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, soy or yeast. It is also added to many processed foods, such as sausages, chips, soups or sauces. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) of the United States considers MSG to be safe and classifies it in the category “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). However, some people claim to be sensitive to MSG and prefer to avoid consuming it. Because of this controversy, many restaurants announce that they do not add MSG to their foods.
The term “Chinese restaurant syndrome” was coined in the 1960s and was widely spread by the media. It is a racist term that conveys negative stereotypes about Chinese cuisine and people of Asian origin. This term reflects an exotic and devaluing vision of Chinese culinary culture, which would be strange, excessive and dangerous for health. This term has been challenged by many people who denounce its discriminatory and stigmatizing character. Today, we prefer to talk about complex symptoms of monosodium glutamate, which is a more neutral and accurate term.