Friday, Oct 24, 2014

Addicted to instant noodle: South Koreans know it’s harmful, still love it

noodle-main In this Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014 photo, a Chinese boy eats instant noodles at the waiting lounge of the south train station in Beijing. (Source: AP)
Associated Press | South Korea | Posted: August 21, 2014 1:29 pm | Updated: August 21, 2014 1:32 pm

"ramyeon" instant noodle at a ramyeon restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. (Source: AP)” width=”475″ height=”302″ /> In this Aug. 19. 2014, customers eat “ramyeon” instant noodle at a ramyeon restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. (Source: AP)[/caption]

Some people won’t leave the country without them, worried they’ll have to eat inferior noodles abroad. What could be better at relieving homesickness than a salty shot of ramyeon?

“Ramyeon is like kimchi to Koreans,” says Ko Dong-ryun, 36, an engineer from Seoul, referring to the spicy, fermented vegetable dish that graces most Korean meals. “The smell and taste create an instant sense of home.”

Ko fills half his luggage with instant noodles for his international business travels, a lesson he learned after assuming on his first trip that three packages would suffice for six days. “Man, was I wrong. Since then, I always make sure I pack enough.”

The U.S. study was based on South Korean surveys from 2007-2009 of more than 10,700 adults aged 19-64, about half of them women. It found that people who ate a diet rich in meat, soda and fried and fast foods, including instant noodles, were associated with an increase in abdominal obesity and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. Eating instant noodles more than twice a week was associated with a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome, another heart risk factor, in women but not in men.

The study raises important questions, but can’t prove that instant noodles are to blame rather than the overall diets of people who eat lots of them, cautions Alice Lichtenstein, director of the cardiovascular nutrition lab at Tufts University in Boston.

“What’s jumping out is the sodium (intake) is higher in those who are consuming ramen noodles,” she says. “What we don’t know is whether it’s coming from the ramen noodles or what they are consuming with the ramen noodles.”

There’s certainly a lot of sodium in those little cups. A serving of the top-selling instant ramyeon provides more than 90 percent of South Korea’s recommended daily sodium intake.

Still, it’s tough to expect much nutrition from a meal that costs around 80 cents, says Choi Yong-min, 44, marketing director for Paldo, a South Korean food company. “I can’t say it’s good for your health, but it is produced safely.”

By value, instant noodles were the top-selling manufactured food in South Korea in 2012, the most recent year figures are available, with about 1.85 trillion won ($1.8 billion) worth sold, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

China is the world’s largest instant noodle market, according to the World Instant Noodles Association, although its per capita consumption pales next to South Korea’s. continued…

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