Southern-style diet raises heart disease risk

Southern style diet
© American Heart Association

It's official. New study confirms (again) that fried, fatty and sweet foods are no friend to your heart.

It almost feels funny to write about this, it’s like writing about a study concluding that the sky does indeed look blue. But since so many people eat this way it seems like a valid thing to report on. And while I'm not sure that more studies and articles on the topic can break the pattern – one can never underestimate the grip of fried food – here goes anyway.

A Southern-style diet pattern – characterized by the regular consumption of fried foods, fatty foods, eggs, processed meats, such as bacon and ham, organ meats like liver, and sugary drinks – leads to a 56 percent higher risk of heart disease compared to a diet with less of these foods, according to new research. So there you have it.

The large-scale study looked at the relationship between dietary patterns and heart disease risk; it is one of the first to include a regionally and socioeconomically diverse population. Comparing dietary habits of more than 17,000 white and African-American adults in different parts of the United States – and adjusting for demographic and lifestyle factors, along with energy intake – they concluded that no other dietary pattern was associated with the risk of heart disease.

"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," said James M. Shikany, Dr.P.H. lead researcher and a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Division of Preventive Medicine. "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."

Meanwhile, research continues to flow in advocating for a Mediterranean diet. By some accounts, 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease – the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States – can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet. And while giving up fried food and sugary drinks may sound like no fun to some, by switching to the Mediterranean diet you get to add olive oil and red wine, so there's always that.

See more: Doctors say a Mediterranean diet is the best way to prevent chronic illness

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