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This One-Minute Meal May Be Hurting Your Health

This One-Minute Meal May Be Hurting Your Health

Ramrod was a legendary crew member of the Grateful Dead. Jack Merritt, star of the 1922 University of North Carolina football team, was nicknamed, “The Battering Ram” and inspired adoption of Rameses the ram as the school mascot. But when it comes to serious ramin’, nothing beats the one hundred billion units of instant ramen noodles that were sold worldwide in 2012. That’s a lot of ramen down your throat!  

Unfortunately, this meal-in-a-minute fuels a roster of health problems from metabolic syndrome to digestive woes. A recent Harvard study found women who ate instant noodles at least twice a week had a 68 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of maladies including obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Earlier studies by Dr. Braden Kuo, director of the GI Motility Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, may reveal why. He put a tiny camera in the stomach of noodle-eating volunteers and could see the stomach contracting back and forth as it struggled to digest the noodles—it took hours! A synthetic preservative called tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) in ramen may be the culprit, though highly processed carbs and sodium in the noodle also contribute to metabolic syndrome. TBHQ is used to prevent discoloration, flavor and odor changes and extend shelf life. And if TBHQ wasn’t bad enough, ramen noodles are “dried” in saturated fat. 

So, we say to stay away from instant ramen and check packaged food labels for TBHQ. It’s in everything from frozen waffles to croutons, sweet snacks and commercial cooking oil.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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