fried chicken

(Credit: Brian Chan on Unsplash)

LONDON — For meat eaters, a warm basket of golden fried chicken might sound like a little slice of heaven. Unfortunately, a new study finds too much fried food may end up making that a last meal. Researchers from Shenzhen University say eating fried food significantly increases the risk of major cardiovascular events, coronary heart disease, and heart failure.

Specifically, study authors find that for every 114-gram serving (roughly four ounces) of fried food a person eats, their risk of heart disease and stroke rises.

Although researchers believe the traditional “Western diet” does not promote good heart health, they did not know how big of a role fried foods played in that assessment. To find out, the study reviewed 19 previous reports on the link between frying food and heart disease.

A growing basket of fried evidence

From those studies, researchers pooled data from 17 to examine the link between eating these foods and cardiovascular disease risk. These reports involved over 560,000 people who experienced 36,727 cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or stroke.

The team also gathered data from six of the studies to assess any possible connection between eating fried food and death from cardiovascular disease or other causes. Those studies involved over 750,000 people, including 85,906 who died over the 9.5-year average monitoring period.

When compared to individuals who eat the lowest amounts of fried food, people eating the highest amounts of fried goods have a 28-percent greater risk of suffering a major cardiovascular event. These participants also have a 22-percent higher risk of coronary heart disease and are 37 percent more likely to suffer heart failure.

The results also reveal a definite trend line connecting fried food to cardiovascular events, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. For every four ounces a person eats, the risks increase by three, two, and 12 percent, respectively.

The team did not find an association between eating fried food and death. However, researchers say this may be due to the relatively small sample size in their study.

Are studies actually downplaying the risks?

Study authors find that the reports they reviewed may actually underestimate some of the risk tied to fried food. Some of the reports only look at one type of fried dish, like fried potatoes or chicken.

The data gathered also relied on participants giving accurate accounts of their diet from memory.

Why are fried foods so bad for people?

Despite finding a connection between the two, the study couldn’t reveal how exactly fried foods contribute to poor heart health.

Study authors say there are a number of possible explanations. Researchers say fried foods increase energy intake due to the amount of fat in them. They also generate harmful trans fatty acids from the hydrogenated vegetable oils used in cooking them.

“Frying also boosts the production of chemical by-products involved in the body’s inflammatory response, while foods, such as fried chicken and French fries, are usually high in added salt, and often accompanied by sugar-sweetened drinks, particularly when served in fast food restaurants,” researchers write in a media release.

The study appears in the journal Heart.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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