Did You Know Instant Ramen Noodles Were This Bad For You?

Editorís note:†This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on September 24, 2014. Enjoy!

College students everywhere probably let out a collective wail this past week. Why? A study just released says one of their most beloved foods, ramen noodles, are incredibly unhealthy.

Ramen noodles are a staple for many people trying to eat on the cheap. They are filling meals for those who need something fast, easy and inexpensive. They can even be a quickie meal for vegans and vegetarians, if you buy the right brand and flavor.

That said, though, they’re apparently death in a crinkly little bag or cup, according to a new study by Baylor University researchers. If you eat a lot of ramen noodles, your risk of metabolic changes linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke rise considerably.

South Korea: Ramen Noodle Capital of the World

Asians tend to eat more noodles than others, says the study. South Koreans in particular eat a heck of a lot of ramen noodles, as it turns out. They are per capita the population which eats†more ramen noodles than any other country in the world — 3.4 billion packages in 2010 alone.

ramen noodle blocks

Recognize these? Have any in your pantry right now?

Unfortunately, in recent years South Korean health problems have steadily increased. The population is getting fatter and experiencing greater rates of heart disease than ever before. These facts led researchers to decide South Korea was the natural choice for a closer look at exactly what effect high instant noodle consumption has on the human body. The results weren’t good at all.

“While instant noodle intake is greater in Asian communities, the association between instant noodle consumption and metabolic syndrome has not been widely studied,” said Dr. Hyun Joon Shin, lead scientist for this study. “I decided to investigate in order to uncover more distinct connections.”

Women Hit Harder By Poor Food Choices

Using information gleaned from a national health and nutrition survey conducted between 2007 and 2009, Dr. Shin and his colleagues reviewed data on over 10,000 South Korean adults aged 19 to 64. They discovered that people who ate instant noodles of any type — whether ramen, lo mein, Thai, or glass — more than twice a week tended to suffer from a condition called metabolic syndrome.

According to the National Institutes of Health:

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke. The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease.

South Korean women who ate the most processed ramen noodles were demonstrably more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome, according to the study. Here’s the kicker: This was true no matter what other foods they regularly ate or how much they exercised.

Ramen noodles in a cup

Ramen noodles in a cup

Even those who lived on an unhealthy fast food diet but no instant noodles were less likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who ate ramen noodles at least twice a week on an otherwise healthy diet. That’s just scary.

Women appear to suffer more ill effects than men from high ramen consumption. Dr. Shin believes this is so, in part, because of differences in hormone levels and metabolism between men and women.

Ramen noodles are particularly unhealthy because they contain a food additive called Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), a preservative that is a petroleum industry byproduct. They’re also incredibly high in sodium, calories and saturated fat.

The containers packaging these noodles aren’t helping much either. The dreaded chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) is widely used in the styrofoam cups in which we often buy our ramen noodle lunches. Among other things, BPA may be a carcinogen. It is also considered a hormone disruptor, negatively affecting natural hormones in our bodies such as estrogen.

Between the preservatives and the packaging, instant noodles are a minefield of potential health problems. The more you eat, the worse it is. It’s just not worth the risk.

Yet Again, Proof That We Should Avoid Processed Foods

We shouldn’t need more evidence, but this study provides it. Instant and processed foods are the worst possible meal choices we can make. Want visual proof that you really need to avoid processed ramen noodles? Watch this video, which shows what goes on in your stomach after you eat them:

Healthier options need not be that much more expensive than ramen noodles. Beans, vegetables, grains and a host of other whole, natural foods can replace cheap instant noodles. Shop carefully and they’ll provide a nutritional kick without busting your wallet or endangering your health.

Are you heading to your pantry to pitch those last couple of instant noodle packages right about now? I am.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock (all images)

356 comments

Clare O
Clare O'Beara5 days ago

If I eat such things I always add peas, some other veg

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara5 days ago

Obviously they are made of carbs and sticky stuff. Not a real meal.

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Aaron F
Aaron F10 days ago

In a rush? Once a month does me no harm.

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Janet B
Janet B10 days ago

Thanks

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Colin C
Colin C10 days ago

I do not eat ramen noodles but I wonder how we digest pasta like spaghetti

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Elaine W
Elaine W10 days ago

Maybe better than going hungry.

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Ellie M
Ellie M12 days ago

but ramen is yummy

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Ruth S
Ruth S12 days ago

I never understood why people liked these in the first place! Thanks.

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heather g
heather g12 days ago

Makes one wonder what other pasta types contain.

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Leanne K
Leanne K13 days ago

And the smell! Godawful!

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