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General News of Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Source: Daily Guide

HEALTH FEATURE: Noodles - delicious but dangerous

by Baaba Eshun-Wilson

I am one of the first people to admit my love for instant noodles. They taste so good and they're so easy to prepare. The instant noodle craze has taken Ghana by storm, with lots of vendors now selling these noodles.

Most Ghanaians prepare noodles like spaghetti, draining the liquid off and adding kinds of vegetables, spices and protein such as sardines and corned beef. I once bought cooked instant noodles of a certain brand from a vendor who added fried plantain, baked beans and ketchup to the entire meal consisting of noodles, corned beef, egg, green pepper, tomatoes and onions. What a meal that was! Heavily endowed indeed!

But, shortcuts, we know, are dangerous. And this shortcut to avoid making a mess in the kitchen or having to wait a while just to have one's tummy filled has its dangerous side.

To begin with, the nutritional content of these noodles, which have now flooded markets and homes, pose a health risk to consumers.

Sorry to the lovers of the product, but the truth must be told. It is not just that the meal mainly comprises carbohydrates, with no minerals or vitamins, and are rich in saturated fats. What are saturated fats? These are fats that raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries and increase the risk of heart disease and cancers.

Noodles of all kinds contain chemicals for flavouring and preservation. Our major concern is the high amount of sodium contained in noodles. Studies show that the average pack of instant noodles contains nearly 75% of the recommended limit of sodium for adults and 100% for young children. This means that if one pack of noodles is consumed by a child a day, together with other meals containing sodium, they are well above their daily recommended intake and exposed to the risks associated with it.

Also of major concern regarding the nutritional content of instant noodles is the presence of the flavour-enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) used to enhance the taste of the food to make it as tasty and delicious as possible. An expert once described MSG as "a slient killer lurking in kitchen cabinet".

I know a lot of people who stopped using branded stock cubes due to the presence of MSG. MSG triggers allergic reactions in some people, signs which may include headaches, pains and burning sensations in the chest. MSG has also been proven to cause learning disabilities and is onoe of the leading causes of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Wow! That's a handful of health trouble associated with tasty and delicious instant noodles!

The fact that this food is loved and enjoyed, especially by children, is worrying considering the fact it leads to learning disabilities.

Looking at most of the instant noodle commercials on TV, they are mostly geared towards the younger generation.

Encouraging children while at the same time misleading them to believe that eating these noodles will make them intelligent in school, healthy and strong, when in fact they do the exact opposite due to poor nutritional content, is worrying.

So, this is the instant noodle story. Now the question is what we do. At the rate at which Ghanaians enjoy instant noodles, it will be almost impossible to get them to stop, even if it would improve their health.

I believe that the athorities are well aware of the nutritional content of this food. But what is being done about it?

Should we continue to enjoy this delicious but dangerous meal? Have the authorities, namely the Ghana Food and Drugs Board (FDB), stepped in to carry outany investigations or considered what this unwholesome, unwholesome meal could do to the younger generation, who have easy access to it?

What is the way forward, since we obviously want a healthier and wiser generation of kids? Total abstinence from noodles, perhaps?

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