This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Ramen Instant Noodles

July 21, 2019 Updated: July 22, 2019

Instant “ramen” noodles are popular food because they are convenient, quick to prepare, cheap, and tasty. Many people probably think that instant noodles are not that bad or at least not as bad as eating a burger or fries. Some may even think that they are healthy because they are “just noodles.”

The world’s first instant noodles were called “Chicken Ramen,” which were made in Japan in 1958, according to the World Instant Noodles Association. Since then, instant noodles have become a “global food” with as many as 270 million servings consumed every day. Recently, its effects on health have been in the spotlight after an 18-year-old student died from stomach cancer after eating instant noodles every night for a number of years.

Illustration (Aldarinho/Shutterstock)

So the question is “Is it bad for your health or not?” We will examine five things that can happen to your body when you eat instant noodles, and you can decide  for yourself:

1. Do Not Break Down After Hours of Digestion

Dr. Braden Kuo of Massachusetts General Hospital used a pill-sized camera to find out what happens inside your stomach and digestive tract after you eat instant noodles. Due to preservatives, the instant noodles remained remarkably intact after two hours, much longer than the homemade ramen noodles that were used as a comparison. As a result, it puts a strain on your digestive system, which is forced to work for hours to break down this highly processed food.

2. Prolonged Exposure to Toxic Additives

The molecular structure of t-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) (Molekuul_be/Shutterstock)

As the instant noodles are kept in the body for a long time due to the slow digestion process, it will prolong the exposure of your body to its toxic additives like Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and t-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ). BHA and TBHQ are used in the instant noodles as preservatives to give the products a longer shelf life.

Research has found TBHQ and BHA have numerous possible health problems. According to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a well-designed government study found that TBHQ increased the incidence of tumors in rats. In research studies according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), cases of vision disturbances have been reported when humans consume TBHQ. They also cite studies that have found TBHQ to cause liver enlargement and neurotoxic effects like convulsions and paralysis in TBHQ-fed lab rats.

3. Increase Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, it was found that women who consumed more instant noodles (twice a week) had a significantly greater risk of metabolic syndrome (68 percent more likely) than those who ate less, regardless of overall diet or exercise habits. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, central obesity (excess body fat around the waist), and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

This is because of the unhealthy fats formed in instant noodles from the deep-frying manufacturing process that allows them to be cooked and ready in a couple of minutes. Another reason is the high sodium level—a single serving of instant noodles contains 861 mg of sodium. However, if you eat the entire package (two servings), the sodium level doubles to 1,722 mg. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

4. Increase Weight

Illustration (Ddua Images/Shutterstock)

Instant noodles are high in fat and carbs, containing about 7 grams of fat and 27 grams of carbs. Also, most instant noodles contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), a food additive used to enhance flavor. A study has linked high MSG consumption to weight gain, and some people even call it an “obesity drug,” as it is considered to be addictive.

5. Cause Bloating

Illustration (FotoDuets/Shutterstock)

Bloating is a common side effect from eating too many instant noodles because of the slow digestion process. They are low in fiber, so they move slowly through the digestive tract. On one hand, it helps to promote the feeling of fullness, but the side effect is that you will feel bloated if you eat too many.

There are more health problems associated with instant noodles. Some studies suggest the MSG in instant noodles may negatively impact brain health because it was found that MSG can cause swelling and death of mature brain cells. Other studies show MSG causes headaches and nausea.

The bottom line is instant noodles are not “healthy,” just like other fast foods. You may want to take into account the negative side effects of instant noodles when you are doing your grocery shopping.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.