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Difference Between MSG And Salt And Sugar: Their Effects on Health

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated Feb 13, 2022

Difference Between MSG And Salt And Sugar: Their Effects on Health

Salt, sugar, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are all naturally occurring substances in the body and are found in the foods we eat. They are healthy in certain levels but they can be damaging to the health of your heart if too much of any is consumed. Although both sodiums are similar, the difference between MSG and salt spells out how each affects the body.

Salt, a preservative and flavor additive  

Sodium chloride, most commonly known as salt, is a key component of almost every food or dish. It adds flavor to food and also functions as a preservative. Bacteria cannot survive with high concentrations of salt. In the body, sodium helps conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and balances water and minerals.

But too much of anything is a bad thing. An excess of sodium can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In addition, kidneys have a hard time managing sodium in the blood. And as sodium collects, the body retains water to dilute it, leading to an increase in the amount of fluid in the cells as well as the volume of blood in the bloodstream.

This increased blood volume makes the heart work harder and exerts more pressure on blood vessels. This extra effort can cause the vessels to stiffen, resulting in high blood pressure and other fatal conditions.

Unprocessed foods have low sodium content. Inversely, tops sources of sodium are bread, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts, savory snacks such as chips, popcorn, pretzels, chicken, cheese, and eggs. Too much sodium in the blood, called hypernatremia, which causes severe dehydration among other things, could also cause difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, extreme thirst, confusion, and kidney damage.

The difference between MSG and salt will be clarified in the next section.

MSG, an amino acid derivative

Monosodium glutamate is sodium salt formed from glutamic acid, an amino acid that also occurs in the body. Like salt, it is a flavor enhancer most commonly added to Chinese food and processed meats. It provides “umami” or a savory flavor. 

Though authorities have described it as “generally recognized as safe”, there have been bad effects recorded which include: headache, sweating, numbness, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, and weakness. Despite these reports, a study found that the evidence on their effects needs further studies done to verify them. This is perhaps also another difference between MSG and salt.

It is also a naturally occurring substance in foods like tomatoes and cheese. 

Sugar, an energy supplier

Sugars are naturally occurring substances in carbohydrates and provide energy while digestion is in progress.

The danger happens when we consume too much added sugar, present in sodas, fruit drinks, sweets, and processed foods. Nutrition experts say that the link between obesity and diabetes is well-established and can negatively impact heart health.

Direct connection between sugar and heart health is not fully clear, but sugar has been known to stress the liver, which over time promotes the accumulation of fat. This could develop into fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes. This can raise blood pressure and aggravate chronic inflammation.

Key Takeaways

Sugar, salt, and MSG are all naturally occurring substances in food, but they have the ability to contribute to heart disease if consumed in large quantities. No one substance is better than the other two, as each has the capacity to lead to illness.

Consume the right quantities by eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. The difference between MSG and salt lies mainly in how it is formed, but both are used as flavor additives. As with everything else, they should be taken in moderation.

Learn other Nutrition Facts here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Chris Icamen

Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated Feb 13, 2022

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