NEW YORK – From a cheap student staple to a pricey bowl of broth, noodle dishes are soaring in popularity.
But they could also wreak havoc with your health, a new study warns.
U.S. scientists found people who ate noodle dishes two to three times a week – including the Japanese noodle soup dish ramen – had an increased risk of developing cardiometabolic syndrome.
This, in turn, raises a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease and other conditions, such as diabetes and stroke.
The findings, published in The Journal of Nutrition, could shed new light on the risks of a worldwide dietary habit, said lead study author Hyun Joon Shin.
Dr Shin, who led the study on behalf of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital, in Texas, said instant noodles and ramen appeared to be particularly damaging to women’s health.
Because ramen consumption is relatively high among Asian populations, the research focused primarily on South Korea, which has the highest instant noodle consumption person in the world.
In recent years, South Koreans have experienced a rapid increase in health problems, specifically heart disease, and a growing number of overweight adults, said Dr Shin.
He decided to investigate the connection between noodle consumption and poor health.
Noodles, like many processed foods, are high in salt – and a diet high in the mineral can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
And earlier this year, Braden Kuo, a gastrointestinal specialist from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found the body struggles to digest dried, ramen noodles.
He used a tiny camera to look at the digestive activity of instant ramen noodles in comparison to the digestion of fresh ones.
Many instant ramen noodles, he said, contain the chemical Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), a food additive that is a bi-product of butane, used in the petroleum industry.
After the experiment, he said: ‘The most striking thing about our experiment when you looked at a time interval, say in one or two hours, [was that] processed ramen noodles were less broken down than homemade ramen noodles.’
In the new study, Dr Shin found women in particular were more likely to suffer health problems from slurping bowls of noodles.
This, he says, can be attributed to biological differences – such as sex hormones and metabolism – between men and women.
However it may be because women are more likely to accurately report what they ate each day, he adds.
Another potential factor in the gender differences is a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) – used to package noodles in Styrofoam containers.
Studies have shown that BPA interferes with the way hormones send messages through the body, specifically oestrogen, said Dr Shin.
‘This research is significant since many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks,’ he added.
‘My hope is that this study can lay a foundation for future research about the health effects of instant noodle consumption.’