Lori Alton via NaturalHealth365 – Whether served as buckets of fried chicken, piles of French fries, bags of potato chips, or platters of breaded fish and shrimp, there’s no denying that fried foods have a prominent place in the diets of many Americans. But a new 2021 meta-analysis published in Heart may make fried foods seem a little less palatable – by linking them with an increased risk of life-threatening chronic diseases.
The CDC reports that about 655,000 Americans lose their lives to heart disease every year. Nutritionists have long identified the Standard American Diet – low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber and high in unhealthy fats, refined carbs, and sugar – as a major contributor to this grim toll. (It’s fitting that this destructive diet is abbreviated as SAD.) The new review goes a step further, evaluating the specific effects of fried foods on heart health – and on the incidence of heart attack and stroke. The jaw-dropping results may make you think twice about ordering that double serving of fries.
Multiple Studies Confirm the Link Between Fried Foods and Cardiovascular Disease
Researchers evaluated data from 17 different studies spanning 9.5 years and involving 754,873 participants to conduct the review.
The team found that the group with the highest intake of fried foods increased their risk of major cardiovascular events by 28 percent and their risk of coronary heart disease by 22 percent. The most eye-opening increase was in the risk of heart failure, which rose by an alarming 37 percent. Heart failure – which occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs – features a notoriously poor five-year survival rate.
Earlier studies also pointed to the ill effects of fried food. In a 2019 study of 155,000 military veterans published in Clinical Nutrition, the researchers noted that eating fried foods one to three times a week raised the risk of heart attack and stroke by 7 percent (compared to consuming these foods less than once a week). Eating fried food daily – reported by about 5 percent of the participants – caused the risk of these major cardiovascular events to soar 14 percent higher.
Nutritional NIGHTMARE: Levels of Toxic Fat and Calories Skyrocket in Fried Foods
Fried foods, which lose water and absorb fat in the cooking process, are much higher in calories and fat than their baked counterparts. For example, a 3.5-ounce serving of baked potatoes contains under 100 calories – and zero grams of fat. But, the calories in a 3.5-ounce serving of French-fried potatoes clock in at a hefty 319 – while fat content swells to a stunning 17 grams.
Clearly, fried foods can contribute to obesity, which is a primary risk factor for heart disease. And, fried foods don’t do your heart any favors when it comes to lipid profiles, either. Studies have suggested that they decrease levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol – while increasing blood pressure, to boot.
Fried foods from fast food and chain restaurants can be particularly problematic. Experts say they are a source of unhealthy “trans fats,” generated from the hydrogenated vegetable oils restaurants use for frying. These fats are difficult for the body to break down and are linked to heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Re-using oil is particularly harmful, as the trans fats increase every time the oil is heated. Finally, fried fast food tends to be loaded with sodium and is often served with sugar-laden drinks – thereby forming the very definition of a “nutritional disaster.”
Good News: The Mediterranean Diet Is Linked with Longevity and Improved Heart Health
In addition to avoiding processed, fried, fast foods and junk foods, you can promote heart health with the Mediterranean diet. This healthy way of eating features generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, a moderate to high intake of fish, a low intake of saturated fats (such as butter), and a high intake of healthy monounsaturated fats from olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Dairy products and meat are consumed in relatively low amounts. Some proponents of the diet recommend very modest consumption of red wine with meals.
Multiple studies have attested to the ability of the Mediterranean diet to help prevent chronic diseases. In fact, a University of Athens Medical School study of 74,607 European adults over age 60 showed that the Mediterranean diet could prolong life, with participants adhering most consistently to the diet living up to 14 percent longer than those who did not follow it closely.
Word to the Wise: Watch Out for “Unidentified Frying Objects”
According to Dr. Eugenia Gianos, director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, people often associate fried foods with crispy breading and batters. Yet, some fried foods – think chicken wings, potato chips, or doughnuts – don’t have external breading. Still, like fried foods, they have the same negative health impact.
Does the research mean that you should ban fried foods from your diet in the interests of heart health? Or is it still permissible to enjoy a few golden French fries?
Registered dietitian Dana Angelo White, an associate professor at Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Conn., puts it this way.
“Eating small amounts … (of fried food) isn’t the end of the world,” Dr. Gianos commented. “But,” she added, “the more you eat of fried foods, the worse it is for you.”
Maybe it’s time to start bypassing harmful frying with baking, steaming, grilling, roasting, or broiling. Your heart will thank you!
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