Southern diet of fried foods and fats are linked to increased risk of heart disease.
A six-year study of more than 17,000 people points to a 56 percent increase in the risk of heart disease in people that eat a so-called Southern Diet, according to a report released this week and cited on cbsnews.com.
James Shikany, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham said that the study wasn’t undertaken to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but merely an association.
The research was done using data from subjects who took part in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, conducted on men and women aged 45 and over, and were enrolled in the program from 2003-2007.
The results were compared to other food regimens, including Mexican food, Chinese food, and alcohol/salad diets, among others. Those who regularly ate the southern diet were much more likely to suffer a heart attack.
The typical southern diet eater in the survey was a black man, without a high school education, and tended to live in what has become known as the “Stroke Belt”, an area that includes the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The southern diet contained added fats, fried food, eggs and egg dishes, organ meats, processed meats and sugar-sweetened drinks, foods that were previously associated with heart disease. No other diet in the study found such an association.
Researchers say it will be difficult to shift southerners from a diet they have been accustomed to eating. Replacing the fatty foods with healthier versions would benefit them greatly, but would not taste exactly the same. What people eat is based on a number of influences, including availability, and cultural and economic reasons.
Shikany stated he didn’t recommend that people completely eliminate these foods from their diet. He says he believes in moderation and cutting down from eating unhealthy foods every day to once or twice a week can be beneficial.