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Instant ramen noodles have accomplished more than most people will in a lifetime

Instant noodles were created to outlast an apocalypse.

Momofuku Ando — the instant ramen inventor honored by a Google Doodle in March — created the salty, transportable meal during World War II.

Momofuku Ando

Momofuku Ando (C), 94, inventor of instant ramen noodles. (KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP)

But it didn't take more than a few years after the war ended for instant ramen to grow into an international solution to global hunger, thanks to its long shelf life, inexpensive production cost, and fortified ingredients.

Instant noodles may end up one of the only foods to win over billions of people for more than a century

Give it another generation or so, and instant noodles may end up one of the only prepared foods to win over billions of people for more than a century. In 2010 alone, 15 packets of instant noodles were sold for every human being on Earth, and consumption continues to rise each year. Instant noodles (of which ramen is a type) can be enjoyed (or despised) in less time than it takes to learn just how wonderfully complex its history is.

Here are a few more facts I learned about the ubiquitous instant noodle:

1) Americans reach peak noodle consumption as tweens

We reach our peak noodle consumption years between 9 and 13 years of age, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health:

Tweens love noodles.

Tweens love noodles. (NIH)

2) Top earners replace noodle consumption with fruits

Almost everything in the American diet is equal across income, except when you get to noodles and pasta consumption for top earners. Among the highest-earning Americans, noodle consumption is replaced with fruit:

Ramen consumption by poverty income ratio.

3) There are ramen magazines, ramen video games, and an Instant Ramen Museum

Custom Instant Ramen cups

Tofugu's Koichi visited the Instant Ramen Museum, and designed cups of his own. (Photo used with permission by Tofugu.com)

4) The Instant Ramen Museum welcomed more than 500,000 visitors in 2010

That's according to The Noodle Narrative:The Global Rise of an Industrial Food Into the Twenty-First Century. Japanese culture and language site Tofugu toured the Instant Ramen Museum, and its video of the process of making ramen will leave you either hungry, disgusted, or perhaps both:

5) Real talk: eating instant noodles has been linked to cardiometabolic syndrome

According to the World Health Organization, "2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if global salt consumption were reduced to the recommended level [of] less than 5g per day." That means less salt needs to be in instant noodles and other packaged foods that tend to contain high amounts of salt for us to begin to consider them healthy. But there's some hope: there are international efforts to make ramen healthier, like playing around with both ingredients and the grains used for the noodles.

6) I'm not done with the bad news. An ingredient in antifreeze is also in many instant noodle meals.

It's because of the packaging, mostly, but Yahoo Health describes other ingredients that have nothing to do with Styrofoam:

Infographic, Yahoo Health/iStock/Priscilla DeCastro

Instant ramen may contain ingredients that might not kill us the first time. (Infographic: Yahoo Health/iStock/Priscilla DeCastro)

7) India surpassed US consumption of noodles only in 2012, despite having four times the population size

The United States (pop. 318 million) eats nearly the amount of noodles as India (pop. 1.2 billion), according to the World Instant Noodles Association.*

*There is a trade association for instant noodles.

There’s a lobbyist or a special interest group for everything. I never realized instant noodles needed an opportunity to defend themselves, although it's easier to understand given the concerns about the ingredients. So here we are, and now we know that ramen interests are being protected in Congress. I can't say I've seen legislation related to noodles; perhaps it's a matter best left to the courts or the 2016 presidential candidates.

8) This modern instant noodle assembly (by Fuji Manufacturing) looks like a tiny, futuristic factory line:

9) Instant ramen went to space in 2005

Ando's dream was to send ramen to space, and he did so before he passed away.

10) There’s a Pokemon instant noodle, and it has edible Pikachu face things

Pikachu Instant Ramen Noodle

Photo: RocketNews24

For Pokemon fans, this is huge. For everyone else, it’s just good to know.

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