The Rise of Nissin’s Noodles – A Humble Dish that Changed the World

Julian Ryall wrote . . . . . . . . .

When Momofuku Ando died in January 2007, The New York Times devoted a large part of its editorials page to a man who had earned “an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress”.

This was not an inventor who had helped create the bullet train, founded one of Japan’s world-beating car companies or an electronics firm that had grown to become the envy of every developed economy. Ando perfected the humble dish of instant noodles and the company that he founded, Nissin Food Products, had grown to bestride the instant food sector like a colossus.

His creation – 60 years ago this August – remains unmistakable from his native Osaka to Ontario and Cape Town to Cologne, with few products better epitomising Japan’s recovery from the ravages of the second world war.

But like most success stories, Ando’s moment of inspiration had more than a hint of good fortune about it – and that story is best told in the museum dedicated to his invention in Yokohama.

On the day of my visit, it is mayhem. At least three school parties are visiting, and the children are busy trying out the interactive exhibits and racing from one display to the next.

The noise and chaos are arguably even more intense on the third floor, where children have a choice of soups and toppings to create their very own Cup Noodle – and, apparently, 5,460 potential flavour combinations.

Next door, another group is busy kneading and spreading wheat flour that is then dried and flash-fried – Ando’s breakthrough discovery – before the children take their creations home to sample.

It is likely that Ando would have approved, as he famously got the idea for instant noodles after witnessing ordinary people in Osaka queuing up for a bowl of the steaming staple at an outdoor stand.

Born in March 1910 to a Taiwanese family, Ando was raised by his grandparents in the city of Tainan after both his parents died, and demonstrated an entrepreneurial streak from a young age. He opened a textile company in Taipei at the age of 22 and later operated a clothing company in Osaka, also enrolling in the city’s Ritsumeikan University.

In the precarious years immediately after Japan’s defeat in the war, Ando was convicted of tax evasion and served two years in prison. In his autobiography, he claims he had provided scholarships to students at a time when it was considered to be tax evasion. By 1957, he had lost his business and almost everything else except his home.

Ando always credited his breakthrough to walking past a ramshackle noodle stand. Inspired, and short of cash, he immediately built a shed in his garden equipped with a stove and a workbench – an exact replica is in the museum – and set about perfecting the recipe and his idea. Initially, it did not go well, and every attempt to create a product that could be stored for a long time, yet ready in an instant, failed.

That changed one evening as he watched his wife fry “tempura” and he realised that flash-frying the noodles would eliminate the water they contained. By simply adding boiling water, the noodles could be rehydrated and ready to eat.

On August 25, 1958, Nissin released the first packet of pre-cooked instant noodles in a garish red and yellow package, with the product name – Chikin Ramen – interestingly in both English and Japanese.

The price of this new innovation was set at 35 yen, which was daring considering that “udon” noodles would commonly cost just 6 yen. But it paid off.

“They were a huge hit straight away because they were quick and convenient, but also because the late ’50s was the time when televisions were becoming more commonplace in Japanese homes and mass-marketing was evolving, while supermarkets were also appearing,” says Kahara Suzuki, a spokeswoman for the company.

“Nissin was also one of the first companies to sponsor a television programme, so the company was proactive in getting its name out there,” she says.

That policy continues to this day, with Nissin sponsoring tennis players Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka, recent winner of the US Open.

Chicken Ramen (Nissin has since fixed the name) is still available in Japan and sells for about 105 yen (94 US cents)– a third of the price of the cheapest bowl of noodles in a restaurant in the country.

Refusing to rest on his laurels, Ando sought out new markets and travelled to the US in 1966 to assess the chance of success for instant noodles in the booming post-war economy.

The American businessmen he spoke to, however, were not sure that eating noodles from a bowl with chopsticks would catch on. That prompted Ando’s second brainwave – selling the dehydrated noodles in a styrofoam cup that was easy for anyone with a fork to use.

The following year, the first Cup Noodle choices appeared on supermarket shelves – and the problem went from being how to crack the US market to how to keep up with demand.

Today, 100 billion portions of instant noodles are eaten around the world every year. By 2016, Cup Noodles had sold a total of more than 40 billion packs since its launch.

Statistics from the World Instant Noodles Association show that nearly 40 billion packs of instant noodles are consumed in China and Hong Kong each year.

“Cup Noodles are far more than just a snack; they’re a meal in their own right and ideal because they are cheap to buy, they’re warm and filling on a cold day, and very quick to prepare,” says Hiroko McCormack, who is married to a Canadian and lives in Toronto – but all too often hankers after a taste of home.

“I have to get them sent to me or buy mine directly from Japan, even if that is more expensive, because the ones we can buy in Canada taste different,” she tells the Post. “Instant noodles are very popular in Canada, although we do have a lot of Korean copies, but I have to say that I prefer the original, authentic taste.”

According to Suzuki, Nissin releases an astonishing 300-plus new products a year in Japan as it tries to keep up with the changing desires – and dietary requirements – of consumers. The vast majority of those are discontinued, leaving the most popular products in place.

“Since 2000, there has been a sharp increase in the number of 24-hour convenience stores in Japan, but each of them has limited space so we need to devise ways to show a broad range of products to customers, who are increasingly fickle,” she says.

“At the same time, there is a lot of very stiff competition in this sector, so we need to be constantly innovating and evolving.”

One of the newer products on the shelves, both in Japan and internationally, is the “Nice” range of Cup Noodles, which has the same rich flavour but fewer calories than its standard counterpart. Similarly, some products are being released in smaller portions for older people who tend to eat less, while the company has found that certain ranges – such as the Thai Tomyam Kung Noodle – have found a firm following with female consumers.

“We have found that often Japanese people will go to an izakaya after work, have a few drinks and then they decide they want a big bowl of ramen,” Suzuki says. “We feel the Nice range satisfies the needs of such consumers with none of the guilt.

“Ramen really is comfort food for Japanese people and Mr Ando’s ‘magic noodles’ are just that, plus they can be a low-calorie alternative.”

Ando remained an innovator throughout his life and in 2005, at the ripe old age of 95, perfected his final contribution to the instant noodle menu, Space Ram. Designed to be eaten by astronauts – as it has been – Space Ram uses his original flash-frying method, although the noodles come as bite-sized nuggets in a plastic pouch.

“It’s funny, but a few years ago I was on a business trip in Europe and I’d been gone for several weeks when I went into a supermarket in a town in Wales to get something to eat after a meeting,” says Chris Dunn, an export trade consultant who has lived in Japan since 1990.

“Among the biscuits and other different snacks on the shelves were these immediately recognisable Cup Noodles,” he says. “All of a sudden, as I’m standing in this supermarket, I get a lump in my throat. And I want to go ‘home’. Home for me is really Canberra, but I just want to get back to Japan and – for me – there is apparently nothing more Japanese than a Cup Noodle.”

Source: SCMP

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We All Carry a Personal Cloud of Germs, Chemicals

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

You might feel squeaky clean after that morning shower, but you carry an invisible cloud of bacteria, viruses, fungi and chemicals every day.

That’s one of the lessons from the first study to take a deep dive into the human “exposome” — the collection of microbes, plant particles and chemicals that accompanies people as they move through the world.

In fact, if your personal exposome was visible to the naked eye, the researchers said, you’d look like the “Peanuts” character Pig-Pen.

In the study, a small group of volunteers wore monitors with a special filter that trapped particles from the air around them as they went about their normal day.

When researchers did a genetic analysis of those samples, they found that each person carried a diverse cloud of bacteria, viruses, fungi, plant particles, chemicals and even “microscopic animals.”

But the exact makeup of that exposome varied substantially from person to person — even though they lived in a fairly narrow geographic region (the San Francisco Bay area).

“This is a very interesting study,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of medicine at South Nassau Communities Hospital, in Oceanside, N.Y.

It’s no secret that humans live in a world chock-full of invisible organisms and chemicals, said Glatt, who is also a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

But this study offers a detailed look at individual exposomes, he said. And that could be a first step toward understanding the ways in which various environmental exposures affect human health, Glatt suggested.

“That’s what we believe,” agreed senior researcher Michael Snyder, chair of genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California.

“Health is totally dependent on genes and environment,” Snyder said. But it’s clear that genes explain only a portion of a person’s vulnerability to various diseases, he added.

There is still a huge amount to be learned about the effects of environmental exposures, Snyder said.

As an initial step, his team gathered detailed information from 14 people who wore matchbook-sized monitors on their arms for anywhere from a week to a month. Snyder, himself, wore the device for two years.

The devices contained filters that captured particulate matter from the surrounding air. Those samples were brought back to the lab for genetic analyses and chemical “profiling.”

In general, Snyder’s team found, people’s exposomes were diverse in the types of micro-organisms and chemicals they contained — although the chemical DEET, an insect repellent, was ubiquitous.

“It was everywhere, which kind of surprised me,” Snyder said.

Otherwise, the makeup of the exposome seemed to depend on factors like weather, travel, pets and household chemicals, for instance.

Snyder said his own home exposures turned out to be “very fungal, rather than bacterial.”

He connects that to the use of “green” paint in his house. The paint lacks a substance called pyridine, which seems to keep fungus levels down. Snyder also discovered he was exposed to eucalyptus in the early spring — which, he said, offers some clues to the culprit behind his seasonal allergies.

Several known carcinogens turned up in most of the chemical samples, according to the researchers. However, they only know the chemicals were present — and not the amount of exposure.

If the idea of carrying around a cloud of bacteria, fungi and chemicals makes you cringe, Glatt made this point: Many of those exposures would be harmless or even beneficial.

It’s known, for instance, that while some bacteria make people sick, many are “good” and necessary for human health.

Snyder agreed. For the most part, no one knows yet which components of the exposome are “good” and which are not, he said. And that may vary from one person to another, he added.

Complicating matters, a person’s exposome is not static. It is “dynamic,” Snyder said, and constantly shifting over a lifetime.

That will make it challenging to study the ways in which the exposome affects human health, Snyder said. “But I also think it can be done,” he added.

He said his team plans to study larger groups of people in more-diverse environments. They also want to simplify the technology used in the study so that one day, people might be able to use the devices themselves, to track their own exposures.

The findings were published online in Cell.

Source: HealthDay

Which of the 4 Personality Types Are You?

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Modern psychology largely rejects the notion that people can be pigeonholed into personality types.

But that assumption is being challenged by a major new study, which discovered at least four distinct personality types into which people tend to cluster.

Researchers discovered these clusters by running the results of 1.5 million personality inventory questionnaires through a computer, said lead researcher Martin Gerlach. He is a doctoral student at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill.

The questionnaires assessed each person on five well-established personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Gerlach and his team fed these into the computer to see if people would tend to cluster around similar levels of shared personality traits.

The investigators found at least four clusters, which they compared to “lumps in the batter,” Gerlach said.

The first is the “Average” personality type, which is characterized by average scores in all traits, the researchers said.

The other three clusters are roughly organized along the traits of neuroticism (level of emotional stability) and extraversion (the quality of being outgoing):

  • “Reserved” personalities are emotionally stable but not particularly extraverted. They also are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.
  • “Self-Centered” personalities score high in extraversion and below average in openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. “It’s not very nice to interact with these kinds of people,” Gerlach said.
  • “Role Models” are low in neuroticism and high in all the other traits. They are agreeable, thoughtful and well-organized.

These clusters were found thanks to four large data sets comprising more than a million people, obtained from different studies performed around the world, Gerlach noted.

“It was previously unthinkable to obtain this amount of data,” Gerlach said.

Not everyone will fall into one of these personality types, he added, and some people may even fall somewhere in the middle between two of them.

Your specific personality type is not set in stone, either, he explained.

For example, researchers speculate that the younger you are, the more likely you will be to fall within the Self-Centered category, particularly if you’re a teenage boy, Gerlach said.

But with age and seasoning, a good number of these people could evolve into Role Models.

“We would expect people to move from one personality type to another personality type,” Gerlach said. “The chances are that older people are more likely to be close to the Role Model personality type. You could describe these people as ‘nice’ people.”

The discovery of these clusters runs counter to much of current psychological theory, which has concluded that personality categories don’t exist, the study authors said.

Senior researcher Luis Nunes Amaral is a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern Engineering. “Personality types only existed in self-help literature, and did not have a place in scientific journals. Now, we think this will change because of this study,” he said in a university news release.

These clusters could help people predict how well you’ll succeed in a given job, or your vulnerability to certain mental or emotional disorders, Gerlach said.

Psychologists have greeted that notion — and these new findings — with some skepticism, however.

James Maddux, a professor emeritus of psychology with George Mason University, said, “I have no qualms about the methodology and statistics, but I have serious doubts about the clinical utility of yet another instrument that categorizes people into types.” Maddux was not involved with the study.

“For 40 years or more, clinical psychology has been moving away from using the assessment of personality traits and types to inform treatment and increasingly toward using assessments of people’s problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors as they occur in specific problematic situations, which is the essence of cognitive-behavioral therapy,” Maddux said.

“I doubt that many clinical psychology doctoral programs in the U.S. or Canada would add this instrument to their course or courses on psychological assessment,” he added.

But New York City psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Sullivan said, “Given the numbers of subjects they assessed, it suggests we need take this seriously. There is something meaningful here.”

However, it’s not clear how useful these categories will be in dealing with people’s mental health issues, said Sullivan, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital.

“I think the question for us in psychiatry is, is it meaningful to us clinically?” Sullivan said. “Does it help us to think about how we might help people who have problems coping in life? In that regard, we would need to play around with these categories and see whether or not they represent something meaningful in a clinical setting.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

Source: HealthDay

16 Going on 66: How Personality Might Change Over 50 Years

Jeannie Kever wrote . . . . . . . . .

How much do you change between high school and retirement? The answer depends on whether you’re comparing yourself to others or to your younger self.

The results of a new study, the first to test how personality might change over 50 years and relying on the same data source at both time points, finds that broad patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors – personality – do change, and this change appears to accumulate with time. But don’t compare yourself to others; those who are the most emotionally stable when young are probably going to continue being the most stable as they age.

“The rankings (of personality traits) remain fairly consistent. People who are more conscientious than others their age at 16 are likely to be more conscientious than others at 66,” said Rodica Damian, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston and lead author of a new study on the subject. “But, on average, everyone becomes more conscientious, more emotionally stable, and more agreeable.

Still, she said, researchers did find individual differences in change across time, with some people changing more than others and some changing in more maladaptive or harmful ways.

The work, “Sixteen Going on Sixty-Six: A Longitudinal Study of Personality Stability and Change across 50 Years,” was published Aug. 16 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Social scientists have long debated whether personality is stable – unchanged over time – or malleable. Recent studies have indicated it might be both, but longitudinal studies covering very long timespans and relying on the same data source at both time points are rare.

The new research supports the idea that personality is influenced by both genetics and environment.

Personality is described as patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors, consisting of five major traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experiences, extraversion, and emotional stability. Damian said those five traits have been found across ages and cultures.

The combination of those traits – how dominant each trait is in a given individual relative to the other traits –makes up the personality profile.

With co-authors Marion Spengler of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, Brent W. Roberts of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Andreea Sutu, a graduate student working with Damian at UH, Damian used a dataset of U.S. high school students who answered a series of questions to assess personality in 1960 and again 50 years later.

Data from the Project Talent Personality Inventory allowed the researchers to answer several questions, including:

  • To what extent do people maintain their relative standing on personality traits compared with other people – for example, do people who are more impulsive than most of their peers at age 16 remain more impulsive than their peers at age 60?
  • To what extent do average levels of personality traits change? Are people, on average, more conscientious at 66 than at 16?
  • Does everyone change in the same way?
  • Are there gender differences in patterns of personality stability and change across time?

“Our findings suggest that personality has a stable component across the lifespan, both at the trait level and at the profile level, and that personality is also malleable and people mature as they age,” the researchers wrote. They found gender differences in personality at any given time, Damian said, but, overall, men and women changed at the same rates across the lifespan.

Source: University of Houston

Parental Life Span Predicts Daughters Living to 90 without Chronic Disease or Disability

Michelle Brubaker wrote . . . . . . .

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that women whose mothers lived to at least age 90 were more likely to also live to 90, free of serious diseases and disabilities.

The study, published in Age and Ageing , found women whose mothers lived into their ninth decade enjoyed 25 percent increased likelihood of also doing so without suffering from serious or chronic illness, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, hip fractures or other debilitating disabilities.

“Achieving healthy aging has become a critical public health priority in light of the rapidly growing aging population in the United States. Our results show that, not only did these women live to age 90, but they also aged well by avoiding major diseases and disabilities,” said first author Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine at the time of the study. “It’s not just about the number of candles on the cake. These women were independent and could do daily activities like bathing, walking, climbing a flight of stairs or participating in hobbies they love, like golf, without limitations.”

Interestingly, the study also found that if only the father lived to 90, it did not correlate to increased longevity and health in daughters. However, if both the mother and father lived to 90, the likelihood of the daughter achieving longevity and healthy aging jumped to 38 percent.

The study did not address parental life span effects on sons. Rather, it analyzed data from approximately 22,000 postmenopausal women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, a large, national study investigating major risk factors for chronic diseases among women. Limitations included no knowledge of the health or cause of death of the participants’ parents.

Shadyab and colleagues believe a combination of genetics, environment and behaviors passed to subsequent generations may influence aging outcomes among offspring.

“We now have evidence that how long our parents live may predict our long-term outcomes, including whether we will age well, but we need further studies to explore why. We need to clarify how certain factors and behaviors interact with genes to influence aging outcomes,” Shadyab said.

At baseline, the women in the study whose mothers lived to at least 90 were more likely to be college graduates, married with high incomes and incorporated physical activity and a healthy diet into their lives.

“Although we cannot determine our genes, our study shows the importance of passing on healthy behaviors to our children,” said Shadyab. “Certain lifestyle choices can determine healthy aging from generation to generation.”

Source: UC San Diego