In the proverbial pantry of cheap, convenient eats, nothing beats ramen. You no longer even have to be a college student to indulge: the processed noodle has graduated from dorm room to restaurant, popping up on U.S. menus 18% more from 2013 to 2014, according to the food industry research firm Technomic.
But while the rise of ramen is good for noodle shops, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that it’s not great for your heart, particularly if you’re a woman.
The study looked at the reported diets of 10,711 adults using data from a two-year survey of South Koreans, who reportedly eat more ramen than anyone else in the world. Two diet tracks emerged: a “traditional diet,” which was full of rice, grains, fish, and produce, and a so-called “meat-and-fast-food pattern,” which replaced some of those staples with meat, soda, fast food, and instant noodles.
Neither of those diets on the whole were associated with an uptick in cardio-metabolic syndrome—which is a collection of risk factors for heart disease, type-2 diabetes and stroke including high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. But the instant noodles were. Eating instant noodles at least twice a week was associated with 68% more cardiometabolic syndrome for women, regardless of what else their diet was made up of.
This effect was only seen in women. Study author Dr. Hyun Joon Shin, a clinical cardiology fellow at Baylor University Medical Center and a nutrition epidemiology doctoral student at Harvard School of Public Health, says that one likely reason is that women have different sex hormones and metabolism than men. Other culprits could include instant noodle packaging, which is often lined with the endocrine disruptor BPA and can mess with estrogen signaling, which may, in turn, lead to some of the risk factors for cardiometabolic syndrome.
Regardless, those noodle packs are hardly a healthy choice for anyone. Highly processed instant noodles differ from regular noodles because they’re often prepped in palm oil for fast cooking and loaded with salt, artificial flavors, and preservatives. “The noodle is very artificially made to make it more delicious, and it can be cooked very easily, within 5 minutes,” Shin told TIME. But cooking “slow” noodles—you know, the kind you dump in boiling water for just a few minutes longer than the instant ones—is well worth the wait for your heart.
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