OK, let’s be real: Most of us know that violently yellow/orange foods that are riddled with delicious salt flavoring and primarily composed of boiled deep-fried noodles (functioning best as hangover food, drunk snack and quick lunch) aren’t the best for us.
But it turns out instant ramen is a lot worse than you might have thought. In a study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, 10,711 adults in South Korea (where people eat more instant noodles than anywhere else in the world) had their instant noodle consumption tracked to explore the connection between the noodles and overall health. Well, the results are worrying for more than one reason.
First, the study separated the subjects into two different categories — those with a diet heavy in processed food, meat and fried foods and those who stuck with a more traditional, relatively healthier diet (lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables). Strangely, there wasn’t a correlation between either dietary group and metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes), but there was a link between metabolic syndrome and noodle consumption, regardless of dietary groups.
Second, the link between metabolic syndrome and instant noodles was found only in women, and the numbers are alarming. Women who have instant noodles twice a week or more have a 68 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome than those who don’t, regardless of the rest of their diet.
The study wasn’t able to determine why frequent instant noodle consumption has such an adverse effect on women’s health — even if they’re sticking to a healthier diet overall. Could it be that instant noodles are a convenience food, and the women who eat them the most also suffer from stress and a lack of time to take care of their nondietary health? Or is there something else at work here, such as a difference in the way men and women digest processed foods like instant noodles?
There will have to be more studies to find out what’s behind the link between instant noodles and metabolic syndrome in women, but for now, one thing is certain — even on busy days, we’re better off avoiding instant ramen. I guess it’s time to start brushing up on your repertoire of easy, heart-healthy meals.