News on Wellness

Instant Noodles Such as Ramen Pose Health Threat


Everyone loves ramen. They are instant, convenient, cheap and perfect for a cold winter day. Ramen noodles are a staple food item for young adults and college students but new research has found that this is exactly the group, as well as people from certain cultures, who might be more at risk of a metabolic change possibly linked to stroke and heart disease.

The study found that women in South Korea who consume the noodles more often were more likely to be diagnosed with “metabolic syndrome.” This risk was present despite anything else they ate or the amount of exercise they got. People with metabolic syndrome often have high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, which puts them at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The co-author of the study Hyun Shin, doctoral candidate for the Harvard School of Public Health, said “Although instant noodles are a convenient and delicious food, there could be an increased risk for metabolic syndrome given [the food’s] high sodium, unhealthy saturated fat and glycemic loads.”

Shin and his other colleagues at Harvard and Baylor University analyzed the diet and health of almost 11,000 adults in South Korea in the age range of 19 to 64. All participants reported what they ate, which was then categorized to determine whether their diet was primarily health food or fast food, and how many times a week they ate instant noodles.

Women who ate ramen noodles at least twice a week had a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those who ate them less or not at all, regardless of following a healthy or fast food diet. This correlation was found even in young women who were overall healthier and reported more exercise. For men, there was a lack of association between eating instant noodles and metabolic syndrome, something researchers suggest might be due to biological differences in the genders, like metabolism and sex hormones.

The study ran in South Korea, a country that is known to have the highest ramen consumption in the world. In 2010 alone, more than 3.4 billion packages were consumed.

But, according to Lisa Young, a nutritionist at New York University, the results could apply in North America as well, “We [in the States] don’t eat it as much, but the ramen noodles are being sold, so this could apply to anywhere they’re sold, and they’re sold almost everywhere.”

Young also said there may be ways to ward off the dangers, “Number one, don’t eat it every day. Number two, portion control.” She further recommended that the noodles be mixed with something like vegetables.

The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition on August 1st.

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