America’s love affair with fried foods has proven to be far more than a fling. From classics like fried chicken or onion rings to more outlandish culinary decisions like deep-fried ice cream or Oreos, we keep coming up with new food items to throw in the deep fryer. For better or for worse, fried foods are an undeniable aspect of Americana.
For instance, is it really summer each year until you’ve had some deep-fried dough covered in sugar at the local Memorial Day fair?
No one can rob us of our beloved, greasy childhood memories. That being said, a new study just published by the British Medical Journal is shedding some light on the darker health consequences of habitually eating fried foods. Researchers conclude eating fried foods is linked to an increased risk of both major heart disease and stroke.
Moreover, that elevated cardiovascular risk increases with each additional 114 gram weekly serving of more fried food.
It’s been established for some time that a typical “Western diet” isn’t conducive to a healthy and long life – especially from a heart-health perspective. However, fried foods are only one aspect of the Western diet, with other “food groups” such as red meat, processed foods, candy, and butter accounting for the rest. So, it’s proven difficult in the past for scientists to zero in on exactly how detrimental only fried foods are to the heart.
In an attempt to answer that question, a team of Chinese researchers decided to analyze 19 previously published studies focusing on fried food and heart health outcomes. All included research had been published before April 2020.
First, information from 17 of those studies was combined to yield a dataset encompassing 562,445 people and 36,727 major cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, etc). This was done to facilitate the assessment of cardiovascular disease risk.
Then, data from another six earlier studies were combined to produce an even larger data collection of 754,873 people and 85,906 deaths (over a median period of nine and a half years). This helped assess any possible connections between fried food consumption and risk of death, both cardiovascular-related deaths, and deaths from any cause.
Upon analyzing all of that information, the study authors concluded that in comparison to people eating the lowest amounts of fried foods, those eating the most were associated with a 28% higher risk of any major cardiovascular event. Regarding specific heart events, people eating the most fried foods are also 22% more likely to develop coronary heart disease and 37% more at risk of heart failure.
As mentioned earlier, those above percentages increase by 3%, 2%, and 12%, respectively, in unison with each extra 114 g serving of fried foods per week. This finding in particular suggests a linear association between fried food consumption and heart health risk. In short, the more fried food you eat the more risk you’re placing on your heart.
Importantly, these findings held up even after researchers accounted for varying demographics and potentially influential elements such as age, gender, etc.
So, fried foods aren’t doing our cardiovascular systems any favors. As far as why that’s the case, study authors say they don’t have a definitive answer just yet. However, they do have a few theories. First off, fried foods are loaded with fat, and, due to the hydrogenated vegetable oils they are usually cooked in, these food items can also jumpstart the production of harmful trans fatty acids. Fried foods also tend to invoke a heightened inflammatory response in the body, which leads to more chemical by-products.
Finally, there’s also the fact that many forms of fried foods, such as fried chicken, French fries, and onion rings, are almost always served with copious amounts of salt. In many instances, these meals are topped off with a sugary drink as well.
Does all of this mean you should never eat a mozzarella stick ever again? No, but perhaps don’t make fried foods a daily, or even weekly, part of your diet. There’s a reason fried foods are so popular; they taste good. So, only eat such foods on special occasions. That way, you’ll protect your heart and let the crispy anticipation build.
The full study can be found here, published in Heart.