American researchers have published evidence to support news that should surprise very few: it appears that eating a lot of fried foods is not good for your health
Little is known about the actual relationship between fried food consumption and mortality, the authors write in the BMJ.
Several cohort studies in US populations have found that higher consumption of fried foods was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, they write, but a study in a Mediterranean population found no association between fried food consumption and coronary heart disease.
Between 25 and 36% of North American adults consume fast food – usually fried – every day.
“Thus, we used data from a large, prospective cohort to examine the association of total and specific fried food consumption with all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality in US women.”
The authors used questionnaire data to assess the diets of 106,966 women, aged 50 to 79, who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) between 1993-1998 and who were followed up to February 2017.
During this time, 31,588 deaths occurred, including 9,320 heart-related deaths 8,358 cancer deaths and 13,880 from other causes.
The researchers looked at the women’s total and specific consumption of different fried foods, including: “fried chicken”; “fried fish, fish sandwich and fried shellfish (shrimp and oysters)”; and other fried foods, such as french fries, tortilla chips and tacos.
After taking account of potentially influential factors such as lifestyle, overall diet quality, education level and income, the researchers found that regularly eating fried foods was associated with a heightened risk of death from any cause and, specifically, heart-related death: those who ate one or more servings a day had an 8% higher risk compared with those who did not eat fried food.
One or more servings of fried chicken a day was linked to a 13% higher risk of death from any cause and a 12% higher risk of heart-related death compared with no fried food.
Similarly, one or more servings of fried fish/shellfish a day was linked to a 7% higher risk of death from any cause and a 13% higher risk of heart-related death compared with no fried food.
There was, however, no association found with cancer-related death.
“We have identified a risk factor for cardiovascular mortality that is readily modifiable by lifestyle and cooking choices,” the authors write.
Women who ate fried foods more regularly tended to be younger, non-white, with less education and a lower income. They were also more likely to be smokers, exercise less and have a lower quality diet.
“Reducing the consumption of fried foods, especially fried chicken and fried fish/shellfish, could have a clinically meaningful effect across the public health spectrum.
“In conclusion, in this large prospective cohort study, we observed that fried food consumption, especially fried chicken and fried fish/shellfish, was associated with a higher risk of all cause and cardiovascular mortality among postmenopausal women in the US. Further studies are warranted to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.”