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Hunger, technology, and society

Studies on the preventive and curative action of ascorbic acid on the neurological toxicity of monosodium glutamate
Nutritional and sensory evaluation of tempeh products made with soybean, ground-nut, and sunflower-seed combinations
A field test for estimating sweetness preferences to improve estimates of sucrose intakes in individuals
Workshop on energy-conserving technologies for the post-harvest system


Studies on the preventive and curative action of ascorbic acid on the neurological toxicity of monosodium glutamate

K. Ahmad and K. Jahan
Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh


Olney and Ho and others have described the toxic effect of subcutaneous administration of large doses of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in young mice (1, 2). Degenerative changes in the retina of the infant mouse after subcutaneous treatment with MSG was reported earlier by Lucas and Newhouse (3). Potts et al. also showed that MSG caused irreversible retinal pathology (4, 5). The use of MSG in infant formula diets has raised concern lest it cause any health hazard. It was suggested that MSG could also be responsible for the Chinese-restaurant syndrome (6, 7). Studies have also exonerated MSG from this incrimination (8).

In the course of their studies on neurolathyrism caused by Lathyrus sativus (LS), various neurological manifestations were reported by V. Nagarajan and C. Gopalan in one-day-old chicks when the latter were given extracts of LS seeds intraperitoneally (9). Subsequently a neuroactive amine, b-N-oxalyl-L-a, b-diaminopropionic acid (ODAP), was isolated from the seeds of LS that mimicked the neurological symptoms caused by the extract (1012). We found that such symptoms did not appear in the chicks when they were given ascorbic acid (AA) some 10 to 15 minutes before the administration of the toxic extract of LS. It was further found that adult guinea-pigs and monkeys, which need a dietary source of AA, developed paralysis of the hind legs and sometimes respiratory difficulty if an extract of LS was administered to them after they had been fed an AA-deficient diet for some weeks to lower their serum AA level to 0.2-0.4 mg/dl. At this stage of deficiency there were no scorbutic symptoms (such as subcutaneous haemorrhage). The conditions paralleled to a great extent those seen in human neurolathyrism, but no such symptoms were seen in those animals that were not made deficient in AA prior to the administration of the toxic extract. These symptoms were found to be reversible if AA was given immediately after the appearance of symptoms. It was concluded that AA counteracted the neurotoxicity of ODAP from LS (13,14). We now provide additional data.

Glutamate has been recognized to be both neuroexcitory and neurotoxic. Biological actions of ODAP and glutamate (MSG) have been correlated (15). It occurred to us that the toxic effect of MSG reported in young animals could possibly be counteracted by AA. As described below, it has been our finding that AA does protect young animals from the neurological symptoms that arise from administration of a high dose of MSG. AA can both prevent and cure the toxic effects of MSG. Therefore, the incorporation of AA with MSG in food preparations might possibly preclude toxic reactions to MSG in human subjects.

TABLE 1. Toxicity of Monosodium Glutamate in One-Day-Old Chicks Weighing 32 to 35 Grams

Amount of MSG Number of Animals Observations and Remarks
MSG1.5 g/kg of body weight 30 No apparent abnormality noted.
2 g/kg of body weight 30 All animals showed drowsiness after 20-30 minutes.
2.5 g/kg of body weight 30 All developed neck drooping; 18 developed paralysis of legs, neck rigidity, and convulsions after 45-90 minutes. 25 recovered and 5 were found dead the following morning.
3 g/kg of body weight 30 27 developed neck rigidity, extensor paralysis of legs, and convulsions; hyperextension of knee and ankle joints; the remaining 3 showed tremor and failed to walk. 15 died in the following 12 hours; all but 2 died within 48 hours.

MSG was administered in a 0.51-ml aqueous solution intraperitoneally.

TABLE 2. Preventive and Curative Action of Ascorbic Acid (AA) in Glutamate (MSG) Toxicity

  Number of Animals Amount of MSG g/kg Body Wt. Amount of AA, mg per Animal

Observations and Remarks

A. One-day-old chicks, 32-35 g 50 2.5 0.75a These are minimum amounts of AA needed for prevention of neurological symptoms in all animals. AA was given 10 minutes before MSG.
B. AA-deficient guinea-pigs (300-350 g); serum AA 0.3-0.5 mg/dl 20 2.0 5b 8 animals developed drowsiness and neck droop; the rest developed weakness and paralysis of hind legs, tremor, convulsions, etc. 45-60 minutes after intraperitoneal injection of MSG. Animals were cured by administration of AA subcutaneously soon after appearance of symptoms.c
C. AA-deficient monkeys (2.5-3 kg); serum AA 0.3-0.5 mg/dl 6 2.0 50b All animals developed paralysis of hind legs 11/2-3 hours after intraperitoneal administration of MSG; 4 developed respiratory distress. All animals were cured by administration of AA intramuscularly immediately after appearance of symptoms.c

a. Minimum preventive dose per chick
b. Administered after the symptoms appeared (arbitrary curative dose)
c. The animals were later put on a diet supplemented with ascorbic acid-guinea-pigs 5 mg/day; monkeys 50 mg/day.


Experiments with Chicks

These studies demonstrate the toxicity of MSG in one-day-old chicks weighing 32-35 9. Different amounts of MSG were put into 0.5 ml of water and administered intraperitoneally. The results are presented in table 1. While a dose of 2 g/kg body weight caused only mild symptoms, toxicity became severe when the dose was raised to 2.5 g/kg.

The preventive action of AA against the toxicity of MSG at a dose of 2.5 g/kg in these chicks is presented in table 2, part A, which shows that 0.75 mg of AA given intraperitoneally 10 minutes before the administration of MSG protected all the birds.

Experiments with Guinea-pigs and Monkeys

These studies were made to demonstrate the curative action of AA against MSG toxicity in adult guinea-pigs and monkeys, which are not able to biosynthesize AA. Guinea-pigs weighing 300-350 9 and monkeys weighing 2.5-3 kg were selected. They were made deficient in AA by feeding an AA-deficient diet until serum AA levels fell to 0.3-0.4 mg/dl. At this point no scorbutic symptoms were seen. A dose of 2 g/kg of MSG was administered to each animal intraperitoneally in a 0.5-ml aqueous solution. Results are shown in table 2, parts B and C. All the animals became sick, but 5 mg of AA given subcutaneously cured all of the guinea-pigs, and 50 mg cured all monkeys. These doses were arbitrary.


1. J.W. Olney and Oi-Lan Ho, Nature, 227: 609 (1970).

2. R. Heywood and A.N. Worden, "Glutamate Toxicity in Laboratory Animals," in L.J. Filer, s. Garattini, M.R. Kare, W.A. Reynolds, and R.J. Wurtman, eds., Glutamic Acid (Raven Press, New York, 1979), pp.203-213.

3. D.R. Lucas and J.P. Newhouse, Amer. Med. Assoc. Arch. Ophthal., 58: 193 (1957).

4. A.M. Potts, K.W. Modrell, and C. Kingsbury, Amer. J. Ophthal., 50: 900 (1960).

5. J.K. Freedman and A.M. Potts, Invest Ophthal., 1: 118 (1962).

6. G.R. Craven, J.E. Steers, and C.B. Alfinson, J. Biol. Chem., 240: 2468(1964).

7. P.L. Morsell and S. Garattini, Nature, 227: 611 l 1970).

8. G.R. Kerr, M. Wu-Lee, M. El-Lozy, R. McCandy, and F.J. Stare, in L.J. Filer, s. Garattini, M.R. Kare, W.A. Reynolds, and R.J. Wurtman, eds., Glutamic Acid (Raven Press, New York, 1979), p.275.

9 V. Nagarajan and C. Gopalan, Current Sci., 32: 116 (1963).

10. S.L.N. Rao, P.R. Adiga, and P.S. Sarma, Biochemistry, 3: 432 (1964).

11. V.V.S. Murti, T.R. Seshadri, and T.A. Venkatasubramanian, Phytochemistry, 3: 73 (1964).

12. P.S. Sarma and G. Padmanaban, in l.S. Leiner, ea., Toxic Constituents in Plant Foodstuffs (Academic Press, New York, 1969), pp. 267-291.

13. K. Ahmad and K. Jahan, Food Nutr. Bull., 4 (4): 65 (1982).

14. K. Ahmad, in E.F.P. Jelliffe and D.B. Jelliffe, eds., Adverse Effects of Foods (Plenum Press, New York, 1982), pp. 71-75.

15. J. Lakshmanan and G. Padmanaban, Nature, 249: 469 (1974).

Nutritional and sensory evaluation of tempeh products made with soybean, ground-nut, and sunflower-seed combinations

M. P. Vaidehi, M. L. Annapurna, and N. R. Vishwanath
Department of Rural Home Science and Department of Agricultural Microbiology, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India


Tempeh products made from soybeans and from combinations of soybeans with ground-nuts and sunflower seed at ratios of 52:48 and 46:54 respectively were tested for their appearance, texture, aroma, flavour, and over-all acceptability. In addition, tempeh was prepared with and without the addition of bakla (Vicia faba) to soybeans in various ratios to obtain a tempeh of acceptable quality and nutritional value (1). Bakla tempeh at a 1:1 ratio was found to be crisper and more palatable than plain soybean tempeh, but at 3:1 the tempeh had a mushroom odour.



Tempeh culture (Rhizopus oligosporus) was obtained from the New Age Food Study Center, Lafayette, California, USA. It was grown on a rice medium and inoculated while different blended tempehs were prepared. A 2.5 9 packet of culture was used for 250 9 of substrate on a dry weight basis.

Soybeans (Hardee), ground-nuts (TMV-30), and sunflower seed (Mordon) were obtained from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. Three varieties of tempeh -100 per cent soy, soy-ground-nut (52:48), and soy" sunflower seed (46:54)-were prepared under identical conditions.

Preparation of Tempeh and Products

Two-hundred fifty grams of soybeans, soaked for 12 hours and combined with other unsoaked seeds, were cooked for 10 minutes at 15 pounds pressure in 750 ml of water.

After drainage of excess water, the beans were transferred to 20 x 15 x 5 cm sterilized aluminium trays. Then 5 ml of vinegar and 2.5 9 of tempeh starter culture were added, using a glass rod to facilitate mixing and spreading. Perforated, new polyethylene sheeting was used to cover the trays, which were maintained at 25 to 30 C for 20 hours. At the end of this period, a white, compact, cake-like loaf of tempeh was ready to cut into cubes or slices for the preparation of tempeh curry and fried chips. These were prepared by the method described by Vaidehi and Vijayakumari (2) with fresh tempeh cubes, and the dishes were subjected to organoleptic evaluation.

Organoleptic Evaluation

A semi-trained panel of nine judges tested the curry and chips prepared from the three types of tempeh. The score sheets consisted of a hedonic scale of five points (3). The samples were served coded and at random selection in triplicate each day between 10 and 11 a.m. and 2 and 2.30 p.m., three samples per session. The data obtained were analysed statistically to determine the highest and lowest scored samples for each quality characteristic-namely appearance, texture, aroma, flavour, and over-all acceptability (4).

Nutritive Value of Tempehs

The proximate nutrient composition-i.e., protein, ether extract, ash, fibre, and carbohydrate (by difference)-was analysed by the AOAC method (5). The fatty-acid profile of 100 per cent soy tempeh prepared with two types of culture was analysed by courtesy of chemists at the Government Soap Factory.

Preparation Cost

The cost of preparing soy tempeh was calculated by considering the essential expenditure for the method applied here and the equipment requirements for small-scale production of tempeh in rural areas.

TABLE 1. Tempeh Products Ranked for Sensory Characteristics by the Panel of Judges

  Appearrance Texture Aroma Flavour Over-all Acceptability
Tempeh curry
soy + sunflower 1 1 1 1 1
soy 2 2 3 2 3
soy +ground-nut 3 2 2 3 2
Tempeh fried chips
soy + sunflower 1 1 1 1 1
soy 3 3 2 3 3
soy + ground-nut 2 2 1 2 2

TABLE 2. Proximate Nutrient Composition per 100 9 of Soy Tempeh with Other Oilseeds (Air-Dried)

Tempeh Variety Moisture Protein Fat Mineral Fibre Carbohydrate (by Difference) Calories
% g g g g g
Soybeans 6.60 42.50 20.00 5.20 - 25.70 453
Soy tempeh 8.00 48.60 21.60 3.90 - 18.00 461
Soy + ground-nut 6.00 36.20 35.80 3.00 - 19.00 542
Soy + sunflower 5.20 31.00 43.00 3.60 - 17.20 580


Organoleptic Quality

Sensory evaluation of the tempeh curry and fried chips showed the sunflower-soybean combination in both dishes to be highly acceptable in all sensory characteristics, i.e., appearance, aroma, texture, and flavour (table 1). This was followed by ground-nut-soybean combination tempeh products. It appears that 100 per cent soybean tempeh was not favoured by the taste panel, not only in our studies but also in other studies reported in the literature. Soybean with bakla was more acceptable at the 1:1 ratio; an increase in soybean ratio lowered the acceptability of the tempeh, as shown by David and Verma (1). Incorporation of 5 to 6 per cent tempeh in pre-gelatinized potato or cereal starch made ground and fried tempeh products more acceptable according to Youch et al. (6).

Hesseltine (7) described tempeh fried in vegetable oil as "delicious to eat" when hot. Wang and Hesseltine (8) prepared a tempeh-like product with higher levels of B12, niacin, and riboflavin. Djion and Hesseltine (9) support the use of tempeh because growth, sporulation, and aflatoxin production from Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus are considerably suppressed by R. oligosporus Similarly, Wang et al. (10, 11) showed that there is an active principle against Gram-positive bacteria, including Clostridium botulinum, Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Nutritional Value of Tempeh

The nutritional quality of soy tempeh in combination with other oilseeds (air-dried) tested here is reported in table 2. The table shows that the protein content of a tempeh-sunflower combination decreased, but the fat content increased. Ash content was highest in ground-nut-soy tempeh. Bhavani Shankar et al. showed that combination with ground-nuts improved the quality of protein in soy tempeh by increasing lysine content (12).

The free fatty acid analysis of soy tempeh is shown in table 3. There is very little difference in fatty acid content in tempeh prepared with two different cultures. Tempeh is rich in oleic and linoleic acids, as raw soybean itself is one of the richest sources of these two fatty acids.

Sundaramadiji and Markakis showed that, organoleptically, tempeh scored best at the end of the first phase (30 hours at 32C) and retained its good quality during phase two la further 24 hours at 32 C), but deteriorated rapidly during phase three, with loss of pleasant taste (13). Furthermore, they showed that in the third phase of tempeh there was an increase in free fatty acid and bacterial growth, an ammonia odour, and collapse of texture.

TABLE 3. Fatty Acid (Percentage of Fat) Profile of Tempeh Prepared with Two Sources of Culture

  CFTRI ( India) New Age Center (USA)
Fat % 30.220 28.020
Caproic 6:0 0.022 0.015
Caprylic 8:0 0.033 0.021
Capric 10:0 0.031 0.018
Lauric 12:0 0.087 0.062
Myristic 14:0 0.015 0.042
Palmitic 16:0 16.309 16.345
Palmitoleic 16:1 - -
Stearic 18:0 0.830 1.112
Oleic acid 18:1 20.956 22.706
Linoleic 18:2 57.763 55.980
Linolenic 18:3 3.496 3.131
Arachidic 20:0    
Behenic 22:0 - 0.552
Lignoceric 24:0 0.437 0.016

TABLE 4. Approximate Costs for the Manufacture of Tempeh on a Small-Scale Industrial Basis

  Quantity Cost (Rupees)

Physical plant requirements

BOD (biological-oxygen-demand) incubators 1 15,000
Aluminium trays, 20 x 15 x 5 cm 12 500
Steel ladies and utensils etc.-    
sizes and quantities as desired - 500
Gas stove and cylinder - 1,500
Steel strainers - 150
Steel mixing bowls 4 200
Total establishment   17,850

Tempeh preparation (for 1.5 kg fresh tempeh)

Soybeans 1 kg 5.00
Vinegar 20 ml 0.06
Fuel - 1.00
Starter culture 1 pkt 0.50
Water 20 litres 1.00
Total   7.56

10.54 rupees = US$1 (31 December 1983).


Table 4 shows the approximate costs computed for the manufacture of tempeh on a small scale for an industrial set-up.

Amino Acid Pattern in Comparison with FAO Pattern

Table 5 shows the amino acid pattern of tempeh prepared with soy and oilseed combinations. The oilseed combination rendered the lysine content of tempeh very much nearer to the FAO recommended pattern (14). Similarly, the tryptophan pattern was more favourable in both blends, but only sunflower seed combinations had better values of sulphur-containing amino acids.


Air-dried tempeh stored for future use remained without spoilage for six months in polyethylene bags with no change in flavour.


In a study conducted by Steinkraus et al. (15) tempeh yield on a dry weight basis was 725 9. In our study the yield was 750 9 of tempeh on a wet weight basis for 250 9 of raw soybeans.


In conclusion, it is significant that the soybean-sunflower seed tempeh excelled in acceptability and also in protein and calorie values among the three types of tempeh studied. Ground-nut tempeh was second in popularity. Although all combinations were high in calories, the protein content of soy tempeh was greater than that of the others. We plan to test the ratios of the various combinations in order to reach the FAO reference pattern for lysine and thus improve protein quality. The fatty acid profile in soy tempeh was 57.8 per cent linoleic and 21 per cent oleic acid of the fat content.

If these tempeh products were consumed directly or added to various high-protein-energy mixtures, even in small quantities, the nutritional value might be greatly extended. The cost of preparing 1.5 kg of tempeh was less than US$1. It is rarely this economical to produce any other popular plant food with such high energy and protein content. Therefore it would be desirable to popularize tempeh products and manufacture on a small-scale industrial level in rural and urban centres. Furthermore, this would create employment and improve the nutritional status of the people consuming these products.

TABLE 5. Amino Acid Pattern of the Ingredients for Tempeh Compared to the FAO Pattern (mg/g of N)

Amino Acids FAO* Soy Groundnut Sunflower Seed Soy-Sunflower Soy-Groundnut
Methionine + cysteine 220 180 140 210 191 166
Lysine 340 400 230 230 341 341
Leucine 440 480 400 400 452 452
Isoleucine 250 320 240 270 303 292
Phenylalanine + tyrosine 380 510 550 400 472 528
Threonine 250 240 170 230 237 216
Tryptophan 60 60 60 90 84 73
Valine 310 320 280 320 320 306

* Source: Reference 14, calculated values.


1. I.M. David and J. Verma, "Modification of Tempeh with the Addition of Bakla," J. food Technol., 16 (1): 39 (1981).

2. M.P. Vaidehi and J. Vijayakumari, "Soya Delights," (University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India, 1981).

3. A.M. Amerine, R.N. Pengborn, and E.B. Roessler, Principles of Sensory Evaluation of Food (Academic Press, New York, 1 965), PP. 350-354.

4. R.G.D. Steel and J.H. Torrie, Principles and Procedures of Statistics (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1960).

5. Association of Official Agricultural Chemistry, Official Methods of Analysis, 12th ed. (AOAC, Washington, D.C., 1 975), p. 222.

6. M.H. Youch, G.V. Darvingas, F.J. Rigethor, and H.W. Muller, "Process for Producing a Snack Food Containing Tempeh," United States Patent, 4: 152 (1979).

7. C.W. Hesseltine, "A Millennium of Fungi Food and Fermentation," Mycologia, 57: 149 (1965)

8. H.L. Wang and C.W. Hesseltine, "Wheat Tempeh,'' Cereal Chem., 43: 563 (1966).

9. K.S. Djion and C.W. Hesseltine, "Use of Microbial Cultivar; Legume and Cereal Products," Economic Microbiol., 4: 115 (19791.

10. H.L. Wang and C.W. Hesseltine, "Use of Microbial Cultures: Legume and Cereal Products," Food Technol., 35 (1): 79 (1981).

11. H.L. Wang, D.I. Ruttle, and C.W. Hesseltine, "Antibacterial Compound from a Soybean Product Fermented by Rhizopus oligosporus," Soc. Exp. Biol. Med., 131: 57911969).

12. T.N. Bhavani Shankar, N.V Shantha, T. Rajashekaran, V.P Shreedharan, and V. Shreenivas Murthy, "Studies on Tempeh made from Groundnut and Soybean Mixture," in Proceedings of the 1st Indian Convention of Food Scientists and Technologists, 92: 95 ( 1979).

13. S. Sundaramadiji and P. Markakis, "Lipid and Other Changes during Fermentation and Frying of Tempeh," Food Chem., 3 (3): 165 (1978).

14. Energy and Protein Requirements, report of a Joint FAO/WHO Ad Hoc Expert Committee, World Health Organization Technical Report Series, No. 522 ( WHO. Geneva, 1973).

15. K.N. Steinkraus, Y. Bwee Hwa, J.P. Van Buren, M.l. Providenti, and D.B. Hand, "Studies on Tempeh: An Indonesian Fermented Soybean Food," Food Res., 25: 777 (1960).

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