Attention, ladies! Instant noodles are bad for your heart

girl eating instant noodles
CC BY 2.0 BigBirdz

A new study identifies the negative effect of instant noodles on women's cardiovascular health.

Instant noodles, including the ubiquitous ramen, are a popular staple food among budget eaters, college students, and anyone who needs a meal in a hurry. There is, however, a price to pay for convenience, and in the case of instant noodles, it could be your health. A new study published earlier this month in the Journal of Nutrition has found a link between instant noodle consumption and increased risk of cardiometabolic syndrome, a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, in women.

The study, headed by lead researcher Dr. Hyun Joon Shin of the Baylor University Medical Center, analyzed the diets of 10,711 adults (54.5% female) between the ages of 19 and 64. Two major dietary patterns were identified: the “traditional dietary pattern” that’s rich in rice, fish, vegetables, fruit, and potatoes, and the “meat and fast-food pattern” that has less rice and more meat, soda, fried food, and fast food, including instant noodles. Women who eat instant noodles – ramen, lo mein, glass, Thai, or other – two or more times per week demonstrated a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome, independent of which dietary pattern they follow.

“This research is significant because many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks,” said Dr. Shin. Indeed, the United States ranks sixth in the world in instant noodle sales, with 4,300 billion units sold in 2013. Ahead of it are Japan, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and India, with South Korea lagging slightly behind the U.S.

Shin’s team of researchers suggests that instant noodles are unhealthy because they contain MSG, plenty of saturated fat, sodium, and a petroleum byproduct chemical preservative called “tertiary-butylhydroquinone” (TBHQ), which is believed to make digestion difficult.

I can’t say I’m overly surprised by the study’s results. What does one expect from eating a relatively large amount of such highly processed, high glycemic index carbs that come with salty, palm oil-laden flavour? Unless a generous quantity of fresh vegetables is added to improve the nutritional profile of your lunch-on-the-go, it’s a no-brainer that instant noodles are something to avoid.

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