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Assume that you're thirsty after eating food that didn't taste salty while you were eating it. I know that MSG contains sodium.

Quora posts and https://msgdish.com/msg-problems-and-answers/ still impute the thirst to salt:

The Problem with MSG Problems - MSGdish

“Chinese food makes me so thirsty—it’s the MSG.” — Well, chances are, if you’re thirsty after eating Chinese food (or any food), you’ve probably consumed a good dose of sodium in the food or you’ve not had enough liquids recently. And, while MSG does contain sodium, it has only 1/3 the sodium of table salt. Chinese food contains a lot of high-sodium ingredients, including soy sauce, broths and other sauces. In fact, there are lots of foods (snack crackers and flavored chips, condiments, soups and sauces, commercially-prepared entrees) we eat all the time that typically contain much more salt than MSG. It’s time to stop blaming Chinese food (and MSG) for your thirst. Many Americans are chronically under-hydrated, and a salty meal of any ethnicity can send us all racing for water afterward.

But Hungry Onion says:

But since the food didn’t feel overly salty at the time, the only reason I can think of for the thirst is MSG.

and Wired.com impute the thirst to the MSG:

The exact flavor MSG confers is difficult to describe, and many just say it increases the "taste intensity" of food. One thing is certain: It makes people thirsty, encouraging them to eat and drink more. Americans consume about 28,000 tons of MSG per year, according to one estimate reported in the June 1995 Journal of Environmental Health.

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No direct evidence that I could find insofar, but MSG seems to enhance the subjective "saltiness" perception of food as well:

MSG+ soups were rated as more salty (F(1,34) = 26·26; P ≤ 0·001) and stronger tasting (F(1,34) = 12·57; P = 0·001) than MSG– soups

There was no direct question about thirst or a measure of water consumed thereafter in that study, so it's unclear just from that if enhanced subjective saltiness taste increased thirst (objectively or subjectively).

Interestingly however, because of this enhanced subjective saltiness, MSG has been proposed as a mean to reduce actual salt (NaCl) contents of food. The latter paper mentions that apparently any umami taste (enhancer) interacts with the (subjective) perception of saltiness.

The interactions between the sensations of umami and salty tastes were evaluated by Yamaguchi and Kimizuka (1979). The authors verified that some intensification of the salty taste occurs when umami substances are present. The main impact is the increase in salivary secretion, smoothness and continuity of the flavor in the mouth. Nevertheless, the exact mechanisms of the gustative reception are not clear and need more investigation (Chaudhari & Roper, 2010).

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"nonsalty food with MSG"

There are almost no "nonsalty foods".

If MSG does induce saltiness, as the question suggests, it can't be because of the sodium.

Bread is typically the largest source of sodium in most people's diet. Two slices of bread contain about 250—300mg of sodium. Nutrition facts for Bread, wheat, recommended daily values and analysis.

Monosodium glutamate - Wikipedia is only 12% sodium by weight. To get the same amount of sodium as is in two slices of bread, you'd need over two grams of MSG. Two grams of MSG is half a teaspoon, and that's a lot of MSG for a single serving of food. Almost no one would eat that much in their meal; it would overwhelm the taste.

Now put some slices of processed meat between those two slices of bread and it's now several times as much. And most people would have two sandwiches for lunch, not just one, so double it again.

Try a Turkey & Bacon Guacamole submarine sandwich at Subway. It has over 2000mg of sodium, and that's without cheese or sauce. To get the same amount of sodium from MSG, you'd need 16g of MSG. That's four teaspoons of MSG.

The amount of sodium in MSG is trivial compared with the rest of our food.

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  • The question is not about the amount of MSG, but about the (perceived) effects – user22865 Oct 9 at 14:29
  • I think the point he's trying to make is that MSG is actually a salt (of glutamic acid). When the question says "non-salty" I assume it's referring to table salt, i.e. sodium chloride. – F1Krazy Oct 9 at 14:51
  • @JanDoggen, I'm saying that since sodium in table salt makes one thirsty, and that there are very few foods where the amount of MSG is anywhere near comparable to the amount of table salt, the MSG itself should have an insignificant effect. – Ray Butterworth Oct 9 at 15:52

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