Misinformation and MSG
Summary: In this article on the Huffington Post, Dr. Joseph Mercola writes about what he believes is the worst food additive on the market and is silently doing major damage to our health, MSG. He goes on to say that ingesting MSG causes a variety of detrimental health effects known as MSG Symptom Complex. Some symptoms he includes are numbness, burning sensation, tingling, nausea, drowsiness, and headache. He also claims that obesity and depression have been “linked” to MSG and that MSG overexcites your cells to the point of damage or even death, causing brain damage and potentially even leading to learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and others. He concludes his article by suggesting to avoid all contact with MSG and offers advice as to how to keep it out our body.
Evaluation: According to Medline Plus, an organization that works within the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been blamed for the condition. (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome or MSG Complex Syndrome) However, this has not been proven to be the cause. They go on to say that, “There have been many studies that have failed to show a connection between MSG and the symptoms some people describe.” Furthermore, they state that, “Most people recover from mild cases of Chinese restaurant syndrome without treatment and have no lasting problems.” So clearly Dr. Mercola’s opinions on MSG are clearly outdated and very dramatic.
Attribution: The author, Dr. Joseph Mercola, is an author and physician. He believes in natural medicine and founded The Natural Health Center which is known for its whole-body approach to medicine. He was voted the 2009 Ultimate Wellness Game Changer by the Huffington Post, and has been featured in TIME magazine, LA Times, CNN, and Fox News. He also founded the website Mercola.com to share his own health experiences and spread the word about natural ways to achieve optimal health. now has over one million subscribers.
Spread: This information circulates because Dr. Mercola has a big following of people who read his posts and believe what he says. He writes this piece with such an exaggerated and dramatic fashion that it instills fear into those who read it and thus it becomes a talking point and as a result all manner of rumors and misinformation spread as people fall into the trap of online discredibility and misinformation.
Benefit: The main beneficiary of this misinformation is Dr. Mercola himself. He draws all this attention to himself by appearing to be a savior, a protector of the people who exposed the life-threatening MSG. He gets all the fame and press and he does it all on purpose knowing that because of his fan base his article will be read all over the country and his words will carry far beyond just his subscribers and Huffington Post readers.
Harm: This misinformation particularly harms the food companies that use MSG in their food and especially Chinese restaurants as MSG is generally known to be used throughout Chinese cuisine. Their business will be very damaged as they will lose many customers and this harm is intentional because Dr. Mercola is a huge supporter of natural medicine. Thus, he doesn’t want people to eat anything that isn’t 100% natural and he wants them to boycott the institutions he deems unnatural and unhealthy.