For several years now, instant noodles have been a staple on supermarket shelves. But are these dried noodles with recipes originating in Asia, and inspired by Rāmen, the famous Japanese noodle soup, a health hazard? At least that's what Dr Braden Kuo, a leading American gastroenterologist, suggests in a video posted online in 2017.
Are instant noodles a health hazard?
Braden Kuo, a specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, has put together a video showing how the human body digests pre-cooked and dried noodles, as a warning to students who love this cheap and tasty meal.
As you can see below, a pill-sized camera was used to capture the digestion process. This shows that the noodles, loaded with preservatives, were mostly intact two hours after entering the body. Dr Kuo explained:
The most striking thing about the two-, four- and six-hour time intervals was the degree to which the noodles were broken down.
At two and four hours, the size of the noodles was much larger than the homemade noodles, suggesting that the dried noodles were difficult to break down into extremely fine particles during the digestion process.
‘But I can't say for sure at this stage whether they will have an impact on health, nutrition, or absorption,’ the doctor said. Despite this, their composition is cause for concern: dried noodles are mostly loaded with a large number of additives, from tertiary butyl hydroquinone, a toxic preservative derived from petroleum sprayed on food to prevent changes in colour, to benzopyrene, a chemical compound belonging to the family of aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is derived from certain marine algae.
All of these substances can, in the long term, lead to the destruction of nerve cells and cause numerous systemic dysfunctions. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition medical Journal concluded that women from South Korea who ate more instant noodles were more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome. This leads to an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.