Instant noodles are cheap, convenient, and tasty to many. Now for the bad news.
Researchers in South Korea, where instant noodle consumption is the highest in the world, studied 10,711 adults, a representative sample of the Korean population enrolled in a large survey of health and nutrition. They found two major dietary patterns — the “traditional diet,” of fish, rice and vegetables, and the “meat and fast-food” regimen, rich in meat and processed food, including instant noodles.
Neither diet as a whole was associated with metabolic syndrome — the constellation of symptoms that includes abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
But the study, in the August issue of The Journal of Nutrition, found that independent of other factors, women who ate instant noodles at least twice a week were 68 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome.
The effect was not apparent in men. According to the senior author, Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, this may be because women report their diet more accurately or because postmenopausal women are more sensitive to the dietary effect of carbohydrates, sodium and saturated fat.
In any case, Dr. Hu said, instant noodles are not part of a healthy diet. “Once or twice a month is not a problem,” he said. “But a few times a week really is.”
My Take: Association is not causality. Still, instant noodles are not high in nutritional value, and should only be used sparingly. The Korean diet overall is linked to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, compared to a risk (more than double!) found in the USA. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.
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1. Hyun Joo Shin et al. J of Nutrition. 25 June 2014;