While you may have heard of monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium guanylate is another food additive that has likely flown under your radar.
This is perfectly understandable, as it’s sometimes listed under the umbrella term “natural flavors.”
Disodium glutamate is frequently used alongside MSG in a range of foods, such as canned soups, potato chips, and dairy products.
Yet, you may wonder whether it’s safe.
This article explains what disodium guanylate is, what foods contain it, and whether it’s safe for consumption.
Disodium guanylate is a common food additive. In fact, it’s a kind of salt derived from guanosine monophosphate (GMP) (
In biochemical terms, GMP is a nucleotide, which is a component of important molecules like DNA.
Disodium guanylate is usually made from fermented tapioca starch, though it can also be derived from yeast, mushrooms, and seaweed. In nature, it’s more readily found in dried mushrooms (
Disodium guanylate is typically paired with monosodium glutamate (MSG) or other glutamates but can be used on its own — though this is fairly rare because it’s more expensive to produce.
Glutamates are proteins that naturally occur in foods like tomatoes and cheese. They’re also found in your brain, where they act as neurotransmitters (
While table salt (sodium chloride) can bring out foods’ flavors, compounds like glutamates can enhance how your tongue perceives salt. Disodium glutamate amplifies salt’s flavor intensity, so you need a bit less salt to produce the same effect (
Together, disodium guanylate and MSG enhance the flavor of food. In fact, humans respond to mixtures of MSG and nucleotides like GMP eight times more strongly than MSG alone (
In other words, when MSG and disodium guanylate are combined, you’re likely to perceive food as much tastier (
In one study, the sodium content in fermented sausages was replaced with potassium chloride, resulting in unappealing qualities like poor texture and flavor. However, after MSG and flavor-enhancing nucleotides were added, study participants rated it delicious (
Importantly, the combination of MSG and disodium guanylate adds umami to a dish. Umami, which is considered the fifth basic taste, is associated with the savory or meaty flavors of beef, mushrooms, yeast, and rich broths (
Given that disodium guanylate doesn’t create umami on its own, it needs to be paired with MSG.
As an MSG replacement
As a food additive, disodium guanylate can enhance the effect of MSG (
Though less common, disodium guanylate is also sometimes paired with disodium inosinate to replace MSG entirely (8).
Disodium inosinate is a flavor enhancer derived from inosinic acid (IMP). When mixed with disodium guanylate, these nucleotides are referred to as “I+G” in the food industry (
However, I+G only creates umami when paired with MSG.
Disodium guanylate is a common food additive that’s typically paired with MSG — and sometimes used to replace MSG entirely. Together, these compounds infuse foods with umami flavor.
Disodium guanylate is added to a wide range of processed foods.
These include prepackaged cereals, sauces, canned soups, instant noodles, snack foods, pasta products, spice blends, cured meats, energy drinks, and canned vegetables.
However, this compound also occurs naturally in foods like fish and mushrooms. For instance, dried shiitake mushrooms pack 150 mg in every 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (
Disodium guanylate may be listed as “yeast extract” or “natural flavors” in an ingredient list (
Disodium guanylate is added to prepackaged snacks, cereals, instant noodles, canned soups, and other processed goods, though it also occurs naturally in foods like fish and mushrooms.
Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) consider disodium glutamate safe (7).
However, adequate intake (AI) or dosage guidelines haven’t been established due to a lack of research (
Adds to total sodium levels
Disodium guanylate adds to the overall sodium content of a food product but is usually incorporated in small and varying amounts (9).
MSG, which is comparable to disodium guanylate but more readily studied, has about 500 mg of sodium per teaspoon (4 grams) — which is 22% of the Daily Value (DV) for sodium (
Although processed foods likely contain a mere fraction of this in a serving, MSG and disodium guanylate likely won’t be the only source of sodium.
These additives are often used to replace salt, as excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease (
However, a mouse study noted that those fed 4 grams of MSG per gram of body weight showed increased oxidative stress in their blood. Oxidative stress can lead to inflammation, which can result in chronic diseases like heart disease (
All the same, human research is needed.
Who may want to avoid it
People who are sensitive to MSG may want to avoid disodium glutamate, as these additives are often paired together.
Symptoms of MSG sensitivity include headaches, muscle tightness, and flushing (
MSG may appear on product labels under such names as glutamate, ajinomoto, and glutamic acid. Keep in mind that it’s widely considered safe unless it’s consumed in excess (
Those with gout or a history of uric acid kidney stones should also avoid disodium guanylate. This is because guanylates often metabolize to purines, which are compounds that can raise uric acid levels in your body (
Dosage guidelines for disodium guanylate have not been established. Those sensitive to MSG may want to avoid it, as well as those with gout or uric acid kidney stones.
Disodium guanylate is a food additive commonly used as a flavor enhancer. It helps increase the intensity of salt so that less of it’s needed.
Additionally, it’s usually paired with MSG. Together, these compounds work to create umami, a fifth basic taste that’s described as savory or meaty.
Although more research is needed on disodium guanylate to establish its safety limits, it’s generally regarded as safe. All the same, people with an MSG sensitivity, gout, or a history of kidney stones should avoid it.