Is there MSG in Cool Ranch Doritos?

Cool Ranch Doritos are a popular flavored tortilla chip made by Frito-Lay. These chips have a distinctive cool ranch flavor that many people love. However, some consumers are concerned about whether Cool Ranch Doritos contain MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is a common flavor enhancer that is controversial because some people claim to have adverse reactions to it. So, does Cool Ranch Doritos contain MSG?

Quick Answer: Yes, Cool Ranch Doritos do contain MSG. MSG is listed as an ingredient on the back of the Cool Ranch Doritos bag.

What is MSG?

MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. It is a common food additive used as a flavor enhancer. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is an amino acid that occurs naturally in many foods like meat, fish, cheese, and vegetables.

MSG adds a savory, umami flavor to foods. Umami is considered one of the five basic taste sensations, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. MSG enhances and balances the total flavor profile of foods.

MSG was first identified in 1908 by Japanese researcher Kikunae Ikeda while he was investigating why dashi broth had such a strong, savory taste. Ikeda isolated glutamate as the source of this taste and named its taste umami.

MSG was later commercialized as Aji-no-moto by the company Ajinomoto. Today, MSG is produced by fermenting starches like corn, sugar beets, or molasses. MSG is used in cooking and manufactured foods as a flavor enhancer.

Common Foods Containing MSG

In addition to being directly added to foods, MSG also occurs naturally in ingredients like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate. Foods commonly containing MSG include:

  • Fast food
  • Chips and snacks
  • Soup mixes
  • Seasoned salt
  • Frozen dinners
  • Canned tuna
  • Salad dressings and mayo
  • Jerky
  • Restaurant food

The FDA estimates that the average American consumes around 0.55 grams of added MSG per day from processed foods.

MSG Controversy

Although the FDA considers MSG safe, it remains controversial. After MSG was introduced as a food additive in the 1950s, some people reported adverse reactions to it.

In 1968, a doctor wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, reporting symptoms like numbness, heart palpitations, and general weakness after eating Chinese food. He coined the term “Chinese restaurant syndrome” to describe this collection of symptoms.

Since then, MSG has been associated with causing headaches, flushing, sweating, numbness, heart palpitations, and other symptoms in some individuals. However, researchers have had difficulty replicating these responses in double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.

While there are anecdotal reports of MSG sensitivity, most controlled studies have found MSG does not cause adverse reactions for most people. According to the FDA, “Although many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions.”

However, it does seem that a small subset of the population may have transient MSG sensitivity or an MSG-induced headache. For this reason, the FDA requires MSG to be listed on food labels so that people who wish to avoid it can.

Types of MSG-Sensitivity Reactions

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) – Collection of symptoms reported after eating Chinese food thought to contain high levels of MSG. Symptoms include headaches, flushing, sweating, numbness, heart palpitations. Term was coined in 1968 letter to NEJM by Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok.

MSG Symptom Complex – Refers to range of symptoms reported after ingesting MSG including headache, muscle tightness, numbness, weakness, flushing, sweating and nervousness. Main symptoms associated with MSG.

MSG-Induced Asthma – Some asthmatics may experience bronchoconstriction after consuming MSG. Likely related to MSG altering nerve signaling rather than an allergic response.

MSG-Induced Headache – MSG may trigger vascular headaches in a small subset of the population. Headaches may occur within 1 hour of ingesting MSG on an empty stomach. More research needed.

So while most people are not sensitive to MSG, a small percentage of individuals may experience adverse effects from consuming it. Further research is needed on prevalence rates and mechanisms.

Is There MSG in Cool Ranch Doritos?

Now that we have covered what MSG is and the controversy around it, let’s get back to the original question – does Cool Ranch Doritos contain MSG?

The answer is yes. If you look at the ingredients list on a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, MSG is listed plain as day. On the Cool Ranch Doritos website, MSG is listed as an ingredient too.

Here are the ingredients in Cool Ranch Doritos, directly from the Frito-Lay website:

Ingredients: Whole Corn, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, and/or Sunflower Oil), Maltodextrin (Made From Corn), Salt, Corn Bran, Monosodium Glutamate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Dextrose, Sodium Diacetate, Whey, Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Onion Powder, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 1, Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Lactic Acid, Red 40 Lake, Red 40, Malic Acid, Buttermilk, Sunflower Oil, Whey Protein Concentrate, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate.

As you can see, MSG or monosodium glutamate is clearly listed as an ingredient. Frito-Lay does not try to hide the fact their Cool Ranch Doritos contains MSG.

So in summary:

Yes, Cool Ranch Doritos do contain MSG. It is clearly listed on the ingredient label on Cool Ranch Dorito bags.

How Much MSG is in Cool Ranch Doritos?

Since we know Cool Ranch Doritos contains MSG, the next obvious question is – how much MSG is in Cool Ranch Doritos?

Unfortunately, Frito-Lay does not provide exact amounts of each ingredient. The ingredients are listed in order of predominance by weight, but the specific quantities are not revealed.

However, we can estimate the approximate MSG content in a serving of Cool Ranch Doritos based on some assumptions:

  • A 1 oz (28g) serving of Doritos contains around 160 calories
  • MSG contains 4 calories per 1 gram
  • MSG is relatively far down on the ingredients list, so estimate it comprises 1% of product weight

Given this information, we can estimate that a 1 oz serving of Cool Ranch Doritos contains approximately:

0.28 g of MSG (1% of 28g)

This is a rough estimate, but it provides an approximation of how much MSG is in Cool Ranch Doritos. The actual amount could vary in either direction.

To put that MSG content into context:

  • 0.55 g is the average daily MSG consumption in the US according to the FDA
  • Up to 2.2 g per day of MSG considered safe by Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives

So while Cool Ranch Doritos does contain MSG, a single serving provides well under the average daily intake and safe consumption limits set by health authorities.

However, people who need to strictly avoid MSG for health reasons will want to avoid eating Cool Ranch Doritos. MSG-sensitive individuals should read labels carefully and look to snack on MSG-free alternatives instead.

Why is MSG Added to Cool Ranch Doritos?

This brings up another key question – why does Frito-Lay add MSG to Cool Ranch Doritos in the first place? What purpose does it serve?

MSG is added to enhance the overall flavor profile. Here’s why MSG is added to Cool Ranch Doritos:

  • Enhances savory, umami taste – MSG contains glutamate which has a potent umami taste. MSG heightens the savory notes in Cool Ranch Doritos.
  • Offsets other flavors – MSG helps balance salty and tangy flavors from seasonings so no one taste overpowers.
  • Rounds out overall flavor – The rich umami taste from MSG makes the Cool Ranch flavor more full and robust.
  • Improves mouthfeel – MSG enhances flavor perception and mouthfeel, making Doritos taste thicker and more satisfying.
  • Reduces need for sodium – MSG adds flavor so less sodium is needed for tasty seasoning.

In short, MSG makes the Cool Ranch flavor taste even cooler, ranchier, and more crave-worthy. MSG amplifies, balances, and rounds out the iconic taste people expect from Doritos.

What Flavor is MSG in Doritos?

MSG naturally brings out savory, umami flavors. In Cool Ranch Doritos, the MSG boosts the following flavor notes:

  • Creamy, tangy ranch
  • Cheese notes
  • Savory onion and garlic
  • Subtle milk and buttermilk flavors

The glutamate in MSG enhances these savory dairy and vegetable flavors. It makes the ranch and cheese taste richer. The onion and garlic taste more layered and complete.

MSG brings all the Cool Ranch flavors into harmony. Nothing overpowers anything else. Everything works together for an enhaced ranch snack taste.

So while MSG has its own savory umami taste, it’s effect is more subtle. MSG amplifies the existing ranch flavor components already in the seasoning blend.

Do Other Doritos Flavors Contain MSG?

We’ve established that Cool Ranch Doritos contain MSG. But what about other popular Doritos flavors? Do they contain MSG too?

To find out, I checked the ingredients lists on Frito-Lay’s website for the following top-selling Doritos flavors:

Doritos Flavor Contains MSG?
Nacho Cheese Yes
Spicy Sweet Chili Yes
Flamas Yes
Tapatio Yes
Salsa Verde Yes
Buffalo Ranch Yes

The table shows that all the major Doritos flavors contain MSG. It’s included in the seasoning blend of Nacho Cheese, Spicy Sweet Chili, Flamas, Tapatio, Salsa Verde, and Buffalo Ranch Doritos.

So Cool Ranch Doritos are not unique – MSG is used as a flavor enhancer across Frito-Lay’s entire Doritos lineup.

This widespread use of MSG in Doritos seasoning demonstrates that Frito-Lay views MSG as an essential ingredient for delivering the bold, savory flavor people expect from Doritos.

Should You Avoid Doritos if Sensitive to MSG?

If you are sensitive to MSG, the presence of MSG in all Doritos flavors means you most likely need to avoid eating them.

MSG reactions vary by individual. But common symptoms reported by those sensitive include:

  • Headaches
  • Flushing
  • Numbness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain

These unpleasant reactions are reason enough for MSG-sensitive people to steer clear of Doritos.

There are also MSG-free snack chip alternatives to Doritos, such as:

  • Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips
  • Late July Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips
  • Snyder’s of Hanover Organic Potato Chips
  • Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips

Checking labels and choosing MSG-free snacks is the safest bet for those with MSG sensitivity. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer to ask if a product contains MSG. Being an informed consumer is key to managing MSG sensitivity.

Should You Limit MSG Consumption Generally?

For people without an MSG-sensitivity who can tolerate normal levels of consumption, is there any reason to avoid or limit MSG intake from Doritos and other foods?

According to mainstream health authorities, no – normal MSG consumption is not a health concern. For example:

  • FDA – “FDA considers the addition of MSG to foods to be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS).”
  • European Food Safety Authority – “Concluded that dietary exposure to glutamate does not exceed the toxicological threshold and does not represent a health risk for consumers.”
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand – “There is no convincing evidence that MSG is a significant factor in causing systemic reactions resulting in severe illness or mortality.”

However, some health advocates and nutritionists recommend limiting MSG for the following reasons:

  • MSG is high in sodium which can drive hypertension
  • MSG may exacerbate underlying medical issues like headaches, mood, epilepsy
  • MSG allows food companies to create hyper-palatable, addictive junk foods
  • MSG-rich diets link to weight gain and metabolic disorders in studies

So while MSG has not been definitively proven dangerous for health, some recommend avoiding heavy reliance on it in the food supply from a precautionary perspective.

When it comes to Doritos, MSG is just one part of an overall junk food product. Beyond MSG, Doritos are high in calories, sodium, fat, and refined carbs with little nutritional value.

Eating MSG in wholesome foods like tomatoes or mushrooms is one thing – getting high doses of MSG from heavily processed snack chips is another.

Everything in moderation applies to MSG consumption too. Those without an MSG-sensitivity can eat Doritos in reasonable amounts without major concern, but should aim for a balanced diet overall.


To summarize this detailed exploration on MSG in Cool Ranch Doritos:

  • Yes, Cool Ranch Doritos contain MSG, as listed directly on the ingredients label.
  • MSG provides a savory, umami taste that boosts the ranch flavor in Cool Ranch Doritos.
  • All major Doritos flavors contain MSG in their seasoning blend.
  • People sensitive to MSG should avoid eating Doritos and opt for MSG-free snacks instead.
  • For those not sensitive to MSG, normal MSG intake from Doritos in moderation is likely fine, but balancing your broader diet is still important.

While MSG concerns linger, mainstream health authorities say normal consumption is safe. But MSG-sensitive individuals should heed reactions and avoid Doritos and other foods containing MSG.

Carefully reading ingredients labels, being an informed consumer, and enjoying a varied, balanced diet are smart practices when it comes to MSG from Doritos or any other source. Moderation and avoidance when necessary are effective strategies for managing MSG intake.

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