Instant noodles are delicious and convenient — or is it that they’re delicious because they’re convenient? Either way, they’re a tasty dish, easy to prepare in mere minutes, and have gained quite a bit of popularity worldwide. While you might be an avid consumer of these hot, flavorful instant noodles, did you know consumption of instant noodles has been linked to increased cancer risk? Studies show that eating instant noodles is linked to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and more. It might be time to eat something else for lunch! (1, 2)
Ramen Noodles and Cancer Risk
Americans understand instant noodles as Ramen noodles, despite the fact that genuine Japanese Ramen is in no way a fast food dish. Traditional Ramen takes great care and dedication to prepare, quite unlike the microwavable noodles we all know and love (that are technically not Ramen at all). Real Ramen doesn’t include any of the toxic ingredients that instant noodle Ramen offers consumers. If you look at the nutritional information on the instant noodles in your pantry, you’ll likely see the potential health issues at hand.
Instant noodles are high in sodium, calories, fat, and are heavily processed. Nothing inside these packages of crunchy noodles are “good” for your body to absorb. In fact, much of it is quite harmful! One of the most harmful ingredients is tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), a chemical preservative. Studies suggest that TBHQ could cause cancer. (1).
TBHQ, Ramen’s Cancer-Causing Ingredient
TBHQ is most commonly added to foods in order to extend their shelf life. It is often found in fast food since TBHQ is generally used on oily and fatty foods. Unfortunately, TBHQ is highly toxic in large doses. That doesn’t stop it from being used in small doses by the food industry, despite the number of studies showing TBHQ’s dangerous results. The FDA has approved small doses for consumption. High doses of TBHQ are thought to possibly be carcinogenic–but on the other hand, the studies are inconclusive. Some show that TBHQ might even prevent cancer. (1, 2)
Due to the possible health concerns of the preservative, the FDA limits TBHQ use. It’s only allowed to make up 0.02% of the food’s total oil amount. Studies suggest that consuming 1 gram of TBHQ is very likely to cause an unwanted reaction. 5 grams of TBHQ is enough to result in a lethal consequence. Despite the number of studies accomplished, however, experts remain unclear as to the “safe limit” of TBHQ. It might be best to avoid it as much as possible. (1, 2)
Other Health Risks of Instant Ramen Noodles
Instant ramen noodles present more toxic health risks than TBHQ with cancer risk. Since instant ramen noodles contain an ingredient called monosodium glutamate, otherwise known as MSG, your nerve cells can suffer. Large amounts of MSG have been directly linked to obesity, metabolic disorders, neurotoxic effects, and other detrimental effects on the body’s reproductive organs. (3, 4)
Additionally, consuming instant Ramen noodles could cause a stroke or heart attack. Instant noodles have been linked to cardiometabolic risks. This mainly correlates with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which are risks to anyone who regularly eats instant noodles. A fast food diet has been associated with abdominal obesity, higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), and an increase in the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. (5, 6, 7)
If instant noodles make up a normal part of your diet, it might be time to reconsider. Stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease are all risks for anyone who eats more than two portions of instant noodles per week. While it’s certainly a convenient meal, it’s important to factor in associated risks.