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Study claiming instant noodles bad for women's health, receives flak

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Step away from the ramen noodles.

This popular college student staple can increase a person's risk of cardiometabolic syndrome and therefore a person's risk of diabetes and heart disease. Metabolic syndrome is also connected with several symptoms such as high blood pressure and abdominal obesity.

The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition by researchers in South Korea, examined the eating habits of 10,000 adults in South Korea. They were looking at differences in diet types: a traditional diet of rice, fish and veggies, versus a meat and fast-food diet that consists of processed foods and meat.

"Although instant noodle is a convenient and delicious food, there could be an increased risk for metabolic syndrome given [the food's] high sodium, unhealthy saturated fat and glycemic loads," said Hyun Shin, study co-author and a doctoral candidate the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Shin and his colleagues found that women who ate instant noodles two or more times a week had a 68 percent increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome regardless of diet. This link was not, however, found in men.

Shin and his colleagues guess that the lack of connection between instant noodles and metabolic syndrome could be tied to biological differences in gender.

Though the study was conducted in South Korea, an area of the world known for having the largest instant noodle consumption in the world, the findings could be generalized to people in North America as well.

"Instant noodles are high in fat, high in salt, high in calories, and they're processed - all those factors could contribute to some of the health problems [the researchers] addressed," said Lisa Young, a nutritionist not involved in the study. "That doesn't mean that every single person is going to respond the same way, but the piece to keep in mind is that it's not a health product, and it is a processed food."

Young said, however, that there are ways to dampen the dangers associated with instant noodles without giving them up altogether. She said don't eat it every day and be mindful of portion sizes.

Frank B. Hu, a senior author of the study, said instant noodles are not part of a healthy diet, but that indulging in the packaged noodles a couple times a month is not a problem. It's eating the noodles several times a week that could lead to increased health risks.

That means it's probably time for college students to find another cheap staple.

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