Instant noodles are a popular go-to lunch or dinner for those who are strapped for time (or cash), like college students. While you probably don’t consider them a health food, you may think they’re not that bad, or, at least, not as bad as eating a burger and fries or a fast-food burrito.
In a first-of-its-kind experiment, however, Dr. Braden Kuo of Massachusetts General Hospital may make you reconsider your love of instant noodles (assuming you have one).
He used a pill-sized camera to see what happens inside your stomach and digestive tract after you eat ramen noodles, one common type of instant noodles. The results were astonishing…
Ramen Noodles Don’t Break Down After Hours of Digestion
In the video above, you can see ramen noodles inside a stomach. Even after two hours, they are remarkably intact, much more so than the homemade ramen noodles, which were used as a comparison. This is concerning for a number of reasons.
For starters, it could be putting a strain on your digestive system, which is forced to work for hours to break down this highly processed food (ironically, most processed food is so devoid of fiber that it gets broken down very quickly, interfering with your blood sugar levels and insulin release).
When food remains in your digestive tract for such a long time, it will also impact nutrient absorption, but, in the case of processed ramen noodles, there isn’t much nutrition to be had. Instead, there is a long list of additives, including the toxic preservative tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ).
This additive will likely remain in your stomach along with the seemingly invincible noodles, and no one knows what this extended exposure time may do to your health. Common sense suggests it’s not going to be good…
Five Grams of Noodle Preservative, TBHQ, Is Lethal
TBHQ, a byproduct of the petroleum industry, is often listed as an “antioxidant,” but it’s important to realize it is asynthetic chemical with antioxidant properties – not a natural antioxidant. The chemical prevents oxidation of fats and oils, thereby extending the shelf life of processed foods.
It’s a commonly used ingredient in processed foods of all kinds (including McDonald’s chicken nuggets, Kellogg’s CHEEZ-IT crackers, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Wheat Thins crackers, Teddy Grahams, Red Baron frozen pizza, Taco Bell beans, and much more).
But you can also find it in varnishes, lacquers, and pesticide products, as well as cosmetics and perfumes to reduce the evaporation rate and improve stability.
At its 19th and 21st meetings, the 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.1
However, the Codex commission set the maximum allowable limits up to between 100 to as much as 400 mg/kg, depending on the food it’s added to.2 (Chewing gum is permitted to contain the highest 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.3
So there’s quite a discrepancy in supposedly “safe” limits, but it’s probably best to have little or no exposure to this toxicant, as exposure to five grams can be lethal and, according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives,exposure to just one gram of TBHQ can cause:4
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sense of suffocation
While TBHQ is not suspected to be a persistent toxicant, meaning your body is probably able to eliminate it so that it does not bioaccumulate, if you eat instant noodles your body might be getting prolonged exposures. This is concerning, to say the least. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), based on animal studies health hazards associated with TBHQ include:5
- Liver effects at very low doses
- Positive mutation results from in vitro tests on mammalian cells
- Biochemical changes at very low doses
- Reproductive effects at high doses
Eating Instant Noodles Linked to Metabolic Syndrome
If you’re still considering ramen noodles for lunch, you should know a new study published in the Journal of Nutritionfound that women who consumed more instant noodles had a significantly greater risk of metabolic syndrome than those who ate less, regardless of their overall diet or exercise habits.6