How many of you are full of nostalgia at the mention of instant ramen? High school or college, the noodles are a staple for many. But it shouldn't come as a shock that these chemically preserved noodles aren't that great for health.
In 2014, Baylor University conducted a study that found people who eat instant ramen are at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is defined by the May Clinic as "a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes."
Dr. Hyun Joon Shin, lead scientist for the study, said: “While instant noodle intake is greater in Asian communities, the association between instant noodle consumption and metabolic syndrome has not been widely studied... I decided to investigate in order to uncover more distinct connections.”
The study focused on South Koreans, a population that has seen a steady rise in heart disease. What was discovered was that those who eat instant ramen more than twice a week often had metabolic syndrome with women who consume ramen being at the highest risk.
"This research is significant since many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks,” Dr. Shin said. “My hope is that this study can lay a foundation for future research about the health effects of instant noodle consumption.”
It is reasonable to apply this study to Americans as well. New York University professor and nutritionist, Lisa Young, said, "We [in the States] don't eat [ramen] as much, but the ramen noodles are being sold, so this could apply to anywhere they're sold, and they're sold almost everywhere... Instant noodles are high in fat, high in salt, high in calories, and they're processed, all those factors could contribute to some of the health problems [the researchers] addressed. That doesn't mean that every single person is going to respond the same way, but the piece to keep in mind is that it's not a healthy product, and it is a processed food."
It is best to avoid high salt, processed foods. We know this but the unfortunate reality is that many can't afford to give it up completely. Part of the appeal of instant ramen is its inexpensiveness. According to the Huffington Post, "it will only cost you $142.65 dollars a year if you decide to live off of it."
Although admitting that they could be healthier, anthropologist Deborah Gewertz of Amherst College along with Frederick Errington of Trinity College, and Tatsuro Fujikura of Kyoto University say that ramen helps relieve the hunger of millions of poor people all over the world. The super cheap meal option helps lower income people in both poor and rich countries feed themselves so they can keep surviving. It isn't a pretty picture but it is a reality.
The real tricky thing here is that if ramen were to be made healthier, they would also likely become more expensive making them possibly inaccessible to some of the people who need it most.
What do you think? Is instant ramen to be avoided at all costs or it a potential life saving food source?
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