Instant ramen is a staple of many a kitchen cupboards. It’s easy to prepare, fills you up, and is, well, instant. A new study has linked obesity and metabolic syndrome in South Korea women with a diet heavy on high-processed junk foods (including instant ramen noodles). It’s important to remember that this is a single, un-reproduced study, not the scientific community’s consensus. That being said, “The researchers analyzed the health and diet of 11,000 South Koreans between ages 19 and 64. The study showed that South Korean women were at high risk of metabolic syndrome due to the large amounts of ramen they consume.” South Koreans consume around 3.4 billion packages of instant ramen per year, ranking them as the world’s numero uno nosher of the product.
Instant ramen, like most highly-processed fast food, is unhealthy. The calories and sodium intake for a recommended serving of 1/2 a pack — yes, the recommended serving size is half a package — is astronomically high. This common package of instant ramen nets 380 calories (just below a Quarter Pounder or a Frappuccino) and 1580mg of sodium. A large order of McDonald’s fries comparatively has 290mg of sodium. Part of this is due to instant ramen being deep-fried to preserve the noodles then soaked in a salt bath when you prepare them. The noodles were designed as a post-war staple to feed people who were starving to death. Literally, it was originally the only meal of an entire day. Now it’s a snack.
The study also posits that of the South Koreans monitored, those with a local diet that’s more historically and culturally accurate were healthier and less at risk of metabolic syndrome and all the diseases that accompany it. Studies of aboriginal communities in the Americas and Australia have also shown an adherence to traditional diets coupled with an avoidance of western highly-processed foods as being the biggest factor to avoiding metabolic syndrome’s adverse effects.
Perhaps the lesson is simple, we need to stop eating so much highly-processed fast food. It’s easier than it sounds.