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Eating fried foods can increase your risk of deadly heart disease by 56%

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(NaturalNews) Eating a "Southern diet" heavy on fried foods, processed meats and sugary drinks increases the risk of heart disease by more than half, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and published in the journal Circulation.

Heart disease is the top killer of both male and female adults in the United States.

"Regardless of your gender, race, or where you live, if you frequently eat a Southern-style diet you should be aware of your risk of heart disease and try to make some gradual changes to your diet," lead researcher James Shikany said.

The study found that the risk of heart disease was highest among people who ate a "Southern" diet most frequently.

"For anyone eating a lot of the main components of the Southern dietary pattern, I'd recommend they scale back on their consumption," Shikany said. "If you're eating bacon every morning, maybe cut back to only two or three days per week, or if you're drinking four glasses of sweet tea or several sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day, maybe reduce that to one a day and replace those with non-sweetened beverages."

Magnitude of risk "surprising"

The study was conducted on more than 17,000 black and white adults over the age of 45 who were participating in the national Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. All participants were free of heart disease when they enrolled in the study. They were given telephone health screenings, a physical exam, and a food frequency questionnaire at enrollment, with a followup telephone interview every six months for about six years.

The researchers identified five basic eating patterns: "Southern," consisting of fried food, eggs, processed meat and sugary drinks; "convenience," consisting primarily of packaged and restaurant foods such as pizza, Mexican and Chinese; "plant-based," consisting primarily of fruits and vegetables; "sweets;" and "alcohol/salads," high in green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and salad dressing, and also high in beer, wine and liquor. The researchers then compared heart disease risk among people who ate each of the diets most and least frequently.

Of all five diets, only the Southern diet was associated with a higher risk of heart disease. People who ate foods that were part of the Southern diet most frequently were 56 percent more likely to develop heart disease over the course of the study than people who ate those foods less frequently. They were also significantly more likely to die from heart-related causes.

"I'm not surprised regular consumption of a Southern-style diet impacts heart disease, but the magnitude of the increased risk for heart disease was surprising," Shikany said.

The people with the highest consumption of the Southern diet tended to be males under the age of 65 who reside in the "Stroke Belt" of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Even small changes can lower the risk

Prior research by the same team had also discovered that the Southern diet increased the risk of death among chronic kidney disease patients by 50 percent. It also increases the stroke risk by an average of 30 percent, with the increased risk rising in conjunction with the frequency such a diet is consumed. People who eat a Southern diet six times a week have a 41 percent greater risk of stroke than those who only eat it about once a month.

Shikany suggests that people who eat a heavily Southern diet start making gradual changes immediately.

"I don't like to recommend people completely eliminate foods because people don't like that, and because of that, they won't do it," Shikany said. "So I advise gradual changes and not completely eliminating things that people enjoy eating."

"Try cutting down the number of times you eat fried foods or processed meats from every day to three days a week as a start, and try substituting baked or grilled chicken or vegetable-based foods," he said.

Sources for this article include:

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