Scientists Reveal the Dark Side of Instant Noodles

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Scientists Reveal the Dark Side of Instant Noodles

Instant noodles are a convenient and tasty dish that is popular worldwide. The number one global consumer is China, and the United States is ranked sixth in instant noodle sales, with 4,300 billion units sold in 2013.

In the US, instant noodles are often referred to as Ramen. However, real Japanese Ramen is not a fast food dish. It’s a noodle soup which is Japan’s cultural icon, so a lot of care is put into its preparation. When instant noodles were first invented, they started selling them under the brand name ‘Chikin Ramen’. Soon, instant noodles became known as Ramen outside of Japan, even if they are technically not Ramen.

In June 2014, a comprehensive study was published in The Journal of Nutrition that revealed the dangers lurking inside your cup of noodles. According to the international group of scientists, instant noodles are associated with cardio-metabolic risks, which mainly refer to the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It seems that the handy and delicious dish comes at a price.

About the Study

The study was conducted in South Korea, which has the highest per-capita number of instant noodle consumers in the world. Also, in recent years, a higher proportion of Koreans started developing conditions such as heart disease and obesity, so it seemed worthwhile to explore the reasons behind this decline in health.

A total of 10,711 adults (54.5% women) between the ages of 19 and 64 were included in the study. Their dietary patterns were analyzed by Hyoun Shin, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health, and his colleagues. Two major dietary patterns were identified: the “traditional dietary pattern”, rich in rice, fish, vegetables, fruit, and potatoes, and the “meat and fast-food pattern”, rich in meat, soda, fried food, and fast food including instant noodles.

The researchers observed that people who ate traditional food, were more unlikely to suffer from high blood pressure. Fast food diet was associated with abdominal obesity, higher levels of LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol), and high triglycerides, which all increase the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.


When Shin looked specifically at instant noodles, the analysis showed that women who ate more than two portions per week had a higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart conditions, stroke and diabetes. The association was found even among young women who were slimmer and more physically active. The correlation was not observed in men.

The Ingredients in Instant Noodles

If we look at the composition of instant noodles, it becomes clear where the danger comes from. They are high in fat, high in salt, high in calories, and they’re processed. They also contain tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), which is a chemical preservative that comes from the petroleum industry.

A number of studies have shown that prolonged exposure to high doses of TBHQ may be carcinogenic, but small doses have been approved for consumption by the FDA. The flavoring powder of the noodles includes salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG), seasoning, and sugar.

Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ) is a preservative that can be found in instant noodles and has been a source of many health discussions. It’s used to extend the shelf life of oily and fatty foods, so it can often be found in fast food, including McDonald’s chicken nuggets. It’s also used in varnishes, cosmetics and perfumes. TBHQ is highly toxic in bigger doses, but has been allowed in the food industry in small doses. The FDA has set the limit of up to 0.02% of the total oils in food to be TBHQ. If you consumed 1 gram of TBHQ, this would very likely cause an adverse reaction, and 5 grams could be lethal. Nobody is really sure what the safe limit is, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea to have TBHQ lingering in your gut.


Another toxic substance that is found in instant noodles is monosodium glutamate or MSG. This is a chemical called excitotoxin that overexcites your nerve cells to the point of damage or death, and also acts as the perfect fattening drug.

Clearly, an odd package of instant noodles won’t kill you, but no one can say with certainty what this processed food will do to you in the long run.


Another Study

In another study, scientists put a little, pill-sized camera inside the stomach of a person who just ate instant Ramen noodles. This enabled them to follow the digestive process and observe what happens once the quick meal reaches the stomach. The results were disheartening for all instant noodle lovers. It appears that the body has great difficulty breaking these noodles down. After two hours, the meal was still more or less intact, which is very unusual. For comparison, when the participant ate homemade noodles, these digested much quicker, so after two hours there was hardly anything left to see in the stomach.

This small study was conducted by Dr. Braden Kuo of Massachusetts General Hospital, and was the first experiment of its kind. Dr. Kuo points out that his experiment doesn’t show instant noodles are necessarily harmful for you. The sample was too small, and further research is needed to establish the effects the slow digestive process has on the gastro-intestinal tract and your body as a whole. Dr. Kuo even admits still eating instant Ramen noodles himself, but he does it in moderation.

Others are more cautious about eating instant noodles after this latest revelation. By staying in the stomach for so long, the noodles put a strain on the digestive tract as it has to work continuously. Also, instant Ramen contains a lot of different additives and preservatives, which remain in the digestive tract for so long. It’s not sure what the long exposure does to the body, but it’s probably not that beneficial to your health.

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5 Responses to Scientists Reveal the Dark Side of Instant Noodles

  1. Resty Agapito says:

    I enjoy reading it and apply for every needs thank you

  2. Kale says:

    Very useful information thank you bye bye!

  3. kenny says:

    This is why this is one of the main staples in American jails and prisons,lol.

  4. puspa raj bagale says:

    I read your article on instant noodles, after reading the article I decided to leave having the same in the future. Thanks for your awareness article.

  5. Dr. OWOYEMI Jacob says:

    I have always had fears about instant noodles. This has just been confirmed and this goes to all synthetic food.

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