Is It Safe to Consume Ajinomoto (MSG) During Pregnancy?

Consuming Ajinomoto (MSG) in Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Gayatri Dawda (Nutritionist)
View more Nutritionist Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy can bring about a lot of weird cravings, and there are days when you will be tempted to eat just about anything. However, you should also know that not everything that tastes delicious is healthy. You will have to be careful with regards to your food choices, as some dishes could contain ingredients that are harmful to your child.If you relish eating Chinese food, think twice before eating it, especially the restaurant you visit, as some dishes contain ingredients like Ajinomoto (MSG), which may not be good for your baby’s health (and for your health too). Ajinomoto is widely used as a flavouring agent, most popularly in Chinese cuisine. And while it improves the flavour of the food, it can have some side effects when consumed during pregnancy. Amidst the debate, let’s look at the safety of consuming MSG in pregnancy.

Video: Is Consuming Foods with Ajinomoto (MSG) During Pregnancy Safe?

What Is Ajinomoto or MSG?

Ajinomoto is not actually an ingredient. Ajinomoto Corp., a Japanese organisation, produces an original product called MSG or Monosodium Glutamate. The use of MSG is controversial as doctors suggest that long-term consumption can lead to health problems. Others argue that as our bodies produce glutamate naturally, it is safe for consumption. If you are pregnant, we suggest that you avoid eating foods with Ajinomoto in them or speak to your nutritionist before making them a part of your diet.

Use of Ajinomoto as a Food Additive in the Food Industry

As the food industry needs to account for a large supply of ingredients,  the use of a cheaper and more flavourful ingredient like MSG to enhance the taste of the food seems only logical. MSG is also used in the food industry as it makes one feel more hungry. It stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin, causing sugar levels to drop. This makes an individual more hungry and prone to overeating.

Is It Safe to Consume Ajinomoto During Pregnancy?

A pregnant woman holding her belly

Pregnant women should avoid consuming foods with Ajinomoto in them as it can be harmful to the baby’s health. Consuming monosodium glutamate in pregnancy may result in a breakdown of the placental barrier, which can disrupt food supply and expose the baby to germs, diseases, and any acidic food that is present in the stomach.

Side Effects of Consuming Ajinomoto During Pregnancy

Consuming foods containing Ajinomoto can be harmful to a pregnant lady, especially if they are consumed in large amounts. Mentioned below are some side effects of MSG during pregnancy:

  • Placental Damage – Too much MSG can damage the placenta and expose the baby to germs and free glutamate, which can be harmful to cerebral development.Headaches: Headaches may lead to migraines, which cause vision changes and sensitivity to sound and light.
  • Sleeplessness – MSG can also trigger insomnia by stimulating the brain cells, and keep you up at night.
  • Over Stimulated Nerves –MSG causes an imbalance in neurotransmitters by inducing the nerves.
  • Heart Issues – Eating foods with MSG in them can lead to fluttering heartbeat, chest pain, and cardiac arrest if consumed in large quantities.
  • Nausea – If MSG is consumed when immunity levels are low, it may cause nausea.
  • Obesity – As MSG stimulates the pancreas, it is said to be one of the causes of obesity.
  • Other Health Effects – When MSG is broken down in our bodies, it is converted to GABA, which has a tranquilising effect. There are also other side effects such as numbness, weakness, thyroid issues and more.

Arguments in Favour of Ajinomoto

Some studies  conducted on rats have linked MSG to defects in the placenta, but the same is not seen in monkeys, a species closer to humans. MSG can cause serious harm if it is consumed in large quantities.

Arguments Against the Use of MSG

There are arguments saying that artificial  MSG is made from fermenting sugar, making the correlation between MSG and pregnancy a negative one. Another reason why caution must be taken when consuming MSG is that it has potential side effects such as heart problems, nausea, headaches, placental damage, and more. Hence, it is best to avoid eating foods with MSG in them.

How to Identify Foods That Contain Ajinomoto?

Most processed foods contain MSG and the use of MSG is also common in restaurants. Most fermented foods contain MSG. One good example is soy sauce. So read labels carefully if you are considering purchasing processed, canned or packaged foods. It is most likely that these items contain MSG in some form unless it specifically says ‘MSG-Free’. MSG is commonly found in artificial flavours, colours, stocks, broths, seasonings, and more. Hence, during pregnancy, these products are best avoided.

Foods That Contain Ajinomoto

Wondering what foods contain MSG? You’ll probably be surprised by the below list. It is important to note that you should always check the ingredient list of products that you purchase for the presence of MSG. If you’re eating at a restaurant, request the chef to not add any MSG in your order.

1. Fast Food

Most major fast food chains add MSG in their food. Additionally, many street vendors and popular Asian food outlets make use of MSG to enhance the flavour of their food.

2. Seasonings & Condiments

Many seasonings and condiments readily available in supermarkets may contain MSG, as it adds an umami flavour. When purchasing condiments and seasoning mixes like soy sauce, mayo, etc., check the ingredient list for any mention of MSG.

3. Chips & Snacks

Yes, your favourite chips may contain MSG as well. Additionally, flavoured popcorn or snack mixes make use of MSG as it is a taste enhancer. Do your research before purchasing.

4. Frozen Foods

The freezing and reheating process leads to the loss of essential nutrients, so many manufacturers add MSG to enhance the flavour of frozen products. Think about it – if frozen foods lacked taste, nobody would go through the effort of buying & cooking them, right?

5. Fermented Foods

Many fermented foods available in the market, such as kimchi, bean paste, or even certain types of cheeses contain MSG, as it adds a depth of flavour and balances the aftertaste of fermentation.

6. Certain Dairy Products

Some dairy products like milk powder or cottage cheese contain MSG. When these ingredients are used in other milk products, trace levels of MSG might be found in the finished product. To avoid this, use a trusted brand of dairy products.

7. Processed Foods

Canned goods and processed foods like canned tomatoes, soups, or smoked meats may contain MSG as well. Read the ingredient label carefully before purchasing these, especially if you are pregnant.

8. Instant Noodles

Instant noodles are all the hype right now, with Korean and other Asian brands making their way into Indian markets. If the ingredient list is in a language unknown to you, use a translator app to check for MSG before buying.

What To Do If You Consume Ajinomoto In Pregnancy?

If you have consumed any foods with MSG during pregnancy, the first thing you should do is Not Panic. It’s likely you may have consumed this ingredient in a small amount that won’t cause any adverse effects as such. If you find yourself having certain symptoms like headaches or nausea, consult your doctor as you may have MSG sensitivity and should avoid it at all costs. Make sure you check the ingredient list of any foods you are purchasing to avoid consuming this ingredient.


1. Can Consuming MSG Cause Birth Defects in My Baby?

In right-sized portions, MSG won’t harm you or your baby as it is likely a small quantity. But, being careful about what you purchase and consume will ensure that there is no build up of MSG in your body.

2. Does MSG Affect Breast Milk’s Taste?

Many studies conducted on the effect of MSG on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have shown no difference in the taste of breast milk. It is unlikely that this ingredient would alter the taste or nutritional value of breast milk.

3. Can Ajinomoto Cause Constipation And Miscarriage During Pregnancy?

The quantity of MSG deemed safe in foods is about 0.1 – 0.8%. In such cases, it is unlikely that it would cause a miscarriage. However, if you have a sensitivity to MSG, you may experience side-effects such as headache, nausea, or constipation after consumption. In such cases, avoid this ingredient completely.

While you are most likely going to experience cravings for foods that contain MSG in some form or the other, it is best to avoid them during pregnancy. Your body will go through hormonal changes and react differently to foods than it normally would, so don’t take chances. Consult your doctor about the foods you want to eat during pregnancy to ensure that you are not sensitive to them. Discuss your diet plan with your nutritionist and doctor, and eat healthy. Here’s wishing you a healthy pregnancy!


1. Zeratsky. K; What is MSG? Is it bad for you?; Mayo Clinic;; April 2022

2. Van Winkle. L; Perspective: Might Maternal Dietary Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Consumption Impact Pre- and Peri-Implantation Embryos and Their Subsequent Development?; International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health;; October 2022

3. MSG Use by Children and Pregnant Women; International Glutamate Information Service;

4. Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG); U.S. Food & Drug Administration;; November 2012

5. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): From A to Umami; International Food Information Council Foundation;; 2015

Also Read: 

Sour Cream during Pregnancy
Is Elderberry Safe in Pregnancy?
Consuming Saffron When Pregnant

Previous article «
Next article »