Ever wondered what happens when you eat instant noodles? This story may make you think twice before downing a bowl of processed Ramen Noodles.
A video showing what happens inside the digestive tract after eating instant noodles has gone viral.
Instant noodles seem innocent, but they contain Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), which is a byproduct of the petroleum industry and food additive frequently to preserve cheap processed foods.
A gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. Braden Kuo of Massachusetts General Hospital conducted an experiment with a time-lapse video inside the stomach comparing both fresh and preserved instant noodles. After two hours of digestion, the results were staggering.
Watch the video below and you’ll never eat instant noodles again.
So why don’t these noodles breakdown? If you read the ingredients on your instant packet, you wouldn’t be so surprised. The worst is, the longer these noodles take the digest, the more chemicals your body absorbs.
For comparison, when the participant ate homemade noodles, these digested much quicker.
Why not Eat Instant Noodles: TBHQ Is Lethal in Small Doses
TBHQ, a byproduct of the petroleum industry, is often listed as an “antioxidant,” but it’s actually a synthetic chemical with antioxidant properties. The distinction here is important.
The chemical actually acts as a preservative by preventing the oxidation of fats and oils. That’s why you’ll find this ingredient in grocery store products and fast-food menu items. It’s also present in varnishes, pesticides, cosmetics, and fragrances (1,2).
TBHQ is a legal food additive. In fact, a joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives determined that TBHQ was safe for human consumption at levels of 0-0.5 mg/kg of body weight (3).
The Codex Commission (an organization that sets international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice) set the maximum allowable limits of THBQ between 100 to as much as 400 mg/kg, depending on the food it’s added to (4,5).
Some foods, like chewing gum, contain the highest allowable levels of TBHQ. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration requires that TBHQ must not exceed 0.02 percent of its oil and fat content, so low-fat foods can contain more of the additive (6).
Different organizations have different “safe” limits and exposure to five grams can be lethal, so it’s best to avoid TBHQ as much as possible.
In fact, according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, exposure to just one gram of TBHQ can cause (7):
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sense of suffocation
TBHQ is hard for the body to eliminate, meaning that it tends to accumulate in your tissues.
Based on various studies, the Environmental Working Group (EWG states that the health hazards associated with TBHQ intake include (8):
- Liver problems (at very low doses)
- Cell mutations
- Biochemical changes (at very low doses)
- Reproductive problems (at high doses)
Instant Noodles Leads to Metabolic Syndrome
If you’re still not convinced, consider this: A study published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that eating instant noodles increase the risk of metabolic syndrome in women, regardless of diet and exercise habits (9).
More specifically, women who ate instant noodles more than twice a week were 68% more likely to have metabolic syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic “Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.” (10)
The study was conducted in South Korea, which has the highest per-capita number of instant noodle consumers in the world. Also, in recent years, a higher proportion of Koreans started developing conditions such as heart disease and obesity, so it seemed worthwhile to explore the reasons behind this decline in health.
A total of 10,711 adults (54.5% women) between the ages of 19 and 64 were included in the study. Their dietary patterns were analyzed by Hyoun Shin, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health, and his colleagues.
Two major dietary patterns were identified:
- “traditional dietary pattern”, rich in rice, fish, vegetables, fruit, and potatoes.
- “meat and fast-food pattern”, rich in meat, soda, fried food, and fast food including instant noodles.
The researchers observed that people who ate traditional food, were less likely to suffer from high blood pressure.
Fast food diet was associated with abdominal obesity, higher levels of LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol), and high triglycerides, which all increase the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
In addition, another study found that instant noodles contributed little (if any) nutritional benefits.
In fact, people who ate instant noodles had a significantly lower intake of important nutrients like protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin A, niacin, and vitamin C compared with non-noodle-eaters. They also ate excessive amounts of calories, processed fats, and sodium (11).
More of the Same
Let’s face it: instant noodles aren’t made with high-quality ingredients. In Japan, however, real ramen noodles are made with wheat (and not much else) and boiled like any other noodle (12).
The instant variety, however, is filled with palm oil and plenty of preservatives. The flavor pack that comes with it, on the other hand, contains salt, monosodium glutamate, seasoning, sugar, and more (13).
Here are some of the most problematic ingredients in these noodles:
Benzopyrene contains benzene, a carcinogen known to cause leukemia and other cancers of blood cells (14).
In 2012, The Department of Health in Taiwan recalled two instant noodle products from South Korea after they were found to contain benzene. Just a few hours before, South Korea recalled six instant noodle products made by the food company Nongshim Co, makers of the popular shin ramenyun (15).
Officials found the cancer-causing substance in the flavoring packet and delayed announcing the test results because the chemicals were minuscule and not harmful.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a controversial food additive that can wreak havoc on the brain, causing cytoplasm swelling, nuclei damage and neuron loss in the developing brains of fetuses. It can also cause allergy-like symptoms, including a headache, chest pain, and nausea (16).
Glutamic acid is non-essential amino acid found in MSG. It’s also is the most common excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It’s known to cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation (17).
The Better Alternative
Eating the odd instant noodle won’t kill you, but it’s certainly not a great habit to develop. When it comes to your health, processed food causes weight gain and chronic disease because of their lack of nutrients as well as their high levels of artificial ingredients and refined fats sugars, and carbohydrates.
If you’re looking for an easy carbohydrate option, turn towards rice noodles, soba noodles or couscous, which are all incredibly quick and easy to cook.
It’s always possible to eat healthy, well-balanced meals without too much effort or time.