Fried Foods Are Okay When Using Healthier Oils
January 25, 2012

Fried Foods Are Okay When Using Healthier Oils

A new study has found that the link between fried foods and heart disease is not true when it comes to using olive or sunflower oil for frying, reports BBC News.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found no association between the frequency of fried food consumption in Spain -- where olive and sunflower oils are used most often -- and the incidence of heart disease.

However, the British Heart Foundation cautions that people should think twice about “reaching for the frying pan,” pointing out that the Mediterranean diet is healthier than most others.

For the study, researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid surveyed more than 40,000 adults about their diet, from the mid 1990s to 2004.

Participants in the study were asked about what types of food they typically ate and how the food was prepared and cooked. At the onset of the study, none of the participants had any sign of heart disease, but by the end 606 heart disease events were recorded and 1,134 deaths were reported.

But when looking at the heart events in detail, researchers found no association with fried food in their diet. The researchers, led by Professor Pilar Guallar-Castillón, determined that this was because of the oil used in their diets.

“In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death,” concluded the authors.

“Taken together, the myth that frying food is generally bad for the heart is not supported by available evidence,” said Professor Michael Leitzmann, from the University of Regensburg, Germany, in an accompanying editorial.

“However, this does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences,” he said. “The study suggests that specific aspects of frying food are relevant, such as the oil used, together with other aspects of the diet.”

Mediterranean diets have long been regarded as healthy, with low-fat and high fiber fresh fruits and veggies, as well as fresh fish. And numerous studies have shown that a balanced diet such as this can cut the risk of illness like cancer and heart disease.

“Before we all reach for the frying pan, it´s important to remember that this was a study of a Mediterranean diet rather than British fish and chips. Our diet in the UK will differ from Spain, so we cannot say that this result would be the same for us too,” Victoria Taylor, a senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News.

“Participants in this study used unsaturated fats such as olive and sunflower oil to fry their food. We currently recommend swapping saturated fats like butter, lard or palm oil for unsaturated fats as a way of keeping your cholesterol down and this study gives further cause to make that switch,” she said.

Experts say more and more people in Britain now fry with olive oil and sunflower oil. Britain now consumes more than 28 million liters (7.3 million gallons) of olive oil each year -- double the amount consumed just ten years ago. Half of British homes use it regularly in some way, although not necessarily for frying.

“Regardless of the cooking methods used, consuming foods with high fat content means a high calorie intake. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease. A well-balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables and only a small amount of high fat foods, is best for a healthy heart,” added Taylor.


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