The legions of ramen fans in this country may not find the results of this study very appetizing.

A Japanese research team found that the more ramen restaurants an area has, the higher the mortality rate from stroke.

The results of the study conducted by a Jichi Medical University team were published in Britain's Nutrition Journal.

While the number of deaths from stroke has been declining overall in Japan, the medical condition is still the fourth-leading cause of death.

Ramen dishes typically contain a high content of salt, which can cause high blood pressure, increasing the risk of stroke.

For the study, the team sorted by prefecture the number of ramen eateries, fast food, French and Italian restaurants as well as "udon" and "soba" noodle shops listed on the "i Town Page" search website.

The team then examined whether there was a correlation between the number of restaurants per capita and mortality rate from stroke and myocardial infarction, using health ministry data after adjusting for age and gender.

The team found that the more ramen eateries there were per capita in a prefecture, the higher the rate of deaths from stroke.

For example, Yamagata Prefecture, with the highest number of ramen restaurants, 139, per 100,000 men, had the 10th-highest mortality rate from stroke in the country. The rate for women in the prefecture was the fifth highest.

Tochigi Prefecture had 95 ramen restaurants, in the second spot, and the mortality rate from stroke was the fourth highest for men and the second highest for women.

Among the top 10 prefectures in terms of the number of ramen eateries per capita both for men and women, Aomori, Akita, Niigata and Kagoshima were also in the top 10 for mortality rate from stroke for both sexes.

However, the research team did not go so far as to put all the blame on Japan's much-beloved noodle dish.

"We can't blame ramen based on the results of this study alone," said team member Kosuke Matsuzono, an assistant professor of neurology.

In areas with many ramen shops, residents tend to buy more salt as well. According to an internal affairs ministry survey on household spending, Yamagata city ranked fourth for the amount of salt purchased per household with two or more people. Aomori city held the top spot, while Akita city ranked second.