Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is known to enhance liking for the flavor of savory foods, but whether associations between flavors and effects of MSG lead to changes in subsequent liking and intake for the flavor alone is unclear. To test this, 32 volunteers evaluated and consumed a novel savory soup with no added MSG before and after four training sessions where the same soup was consumed either unchanged (Control) or with added MSG. The addition of MSG during training increased both pleasantness and savory character of the soup and resulted in a larger increase in rated pleasantness of the soup in the MSG-trained relative to control condition when the soup was re-evaluated Post-training without MSG. There was also a significant increase in voluntary soup intake Post-training after the soup had been paired with MSG but not in the Control condition, and rated hunger increased more after tasting the soup Post-training in the MSG-trained but not Control condition. These findings demonstrate that co-experience of a savory flavor and MSG can result in increased subsequent liking and intake for the flavor in the absence of MSG, and possible explanations for how MSG reinforces learning are discussed.
Physiology & Behavior Vol. 93, Issue 4-5, p. 958-966