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Add Instant Ramen To The List Of Foods That Can Kill You

Are those cheap lunches worth a heart attack?

Add Instant Ramen To The List Of Foods That Can Kill You

[Flickr user Elsie Hui]

While we're on the topic of foods that are the worst for your health, let's talk ramen.

If your diet is heavy on instant noodles, then perhaps you’re not in the best shape anyway, but a study shows that even the occasional ramen dabbler might be heading for a heart attack—eating instant noodles just twice a week increases your risk of cardio-metabolic syndrome, which can cause heart disease, diabetes, and even strokes. That corner store ramen doesn't look so cheap after all.

The study took place in Korea, and looked at the effects of consumption of all kinds of instant noodles, not just ramen. The study took its data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES), which covers 2007–2009, and the study examined 10,711 adults aged 19-64. The KNHANES includes a food-frequency questionnaire, which covers 63 of Korea’s most popular foods and other nutrients.

South Koreans eat more instant noodles than anyone else on Earth. In 2010, they munched and slurped their way through 3.4 billion packages. And even in Korea, instant noodles are associated with bad diet. The researchers, led by Hyun Joon Shin of Baylor University, identified two main kinds of diet in the country: The traditional dietary pattern, which is "rich in rice, fish, vegetables, fruit, and potatoes," and the meat and fast-food pattern, "with less rice intake but rich in meat, soda, fried food, and fast food including instant noodles."

Flickr user frankieleon

So, are instant noodles actually bad for you themselves, or are some Koreans unhealthy because their overall diet is terrible, and ramen is a part of that? Shin’s team set about finding out.

By looking at just the instant noodle intake of individuals, it was possible to tease out some patterns. One was that, even though many highly educated people ate the modern meat and fast-food diet, they didn’t go for instant noodles. Noodles were most popular among participants with a lower educational and income level:

Participants who frequently consumed instant noodles (≥2 times/wk) and those in the highest quintile of the MP [meat pattern] were younger, more likely to be current smokers, drink more alcohol, be less physically active, and have low carbohydrate intake in both genders.

While the research team took pains to separate the effects of instant noodles from the overall bad effects of the "meat pattern" diet, it admits that it is hard to be conclusive. However, the methods used seem to support the hypothesis that lots of instant noodles can be related to cardio-metabolic syndrome—and it seems to be worse for women.

So, it looks like you should avoid instant noodles. That’s bad news for struggling scriptwriters or for geeks trying to run a startup out of their garage, but good news for their roommates, who will no longer have to put up with the stink of them.

related video: Want to avoid a coronary? Here are 11 foods to eat right now to supercharge your diet

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