Eating Southern Foods Linked To Higher Risk Of Stroke

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Fried chicken, bacon, fried fish, sweet tea. Sounds delicious, right? According to a new study, these Southern-style foods may be linked to an increased risk of stroke.

Researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham believe this is the first large-scale study that examines the connection between stroke and Southern foods. The items that the team of investigators looked at included bacon, fried fish, fried potatoes, fried chicken, ham, liver, gizzards along with sugary drinks like sweet tea. They emphasized that the fried foods are not only high in fat, but also have a high concentration of salt. The study´s results was recently presented at the American Stroke Association´s International Stroke Conference.

“We’ve got three major factors working together in the Southern-style diet to raise risks of cardiovascular disease: fatty foods are high in cholesterol, sugary drinks are linked to diabetes and salty foods lead to high blood pressure,” noted the study´s lead researcher Suzanne Judd, who serves as a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s biostatistics department, in a prepared statement.

Scientists compared the dietary habits of over 20,000 black and white adults. Participants, who were part of the ongoing Reasons for Geographic and Racial Difference in Stroke Study (REGARDS) and living in 48 different states, completed telephone questionnaires regarding the food they ate. Following the telephone questionnaire, each individual completed an in-person medical assessment for information regarding their height, weight and blood pressure. They also had an electrocardiogram and a blood test done. Six months following the initial tests they answered follow-up telephone questions regarding their sleep habits, stroke frequency, and overall health.

The study provided a number of findings. One staggering statistic was that individuals who consumed Southern foods approximately six times a week had a 41 percent higher chance of suffering a stroke than those who only ate southern-style foods once a month. In addition, stroke incidence was directly proportional to the amount of Southern food the study subjects consumed. In particular, “eating a Southern diet accounted for 63 percent of the higher risk of stroke among African-Americans above that of their white counterparts.”

On the other hand, the team of investigators discovered that individuals with the highest consumption of fruits, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains had a 29 percent lower stroke risk than individuals who had the lowest consumption of these types of food.

“There are other foods in the Southern-style diet which are good,” commented Judd in an article by ABC News. “Collard greens, for example. Just having a little more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources — chicken without the skin, fish that isn’t fried — gives you an across-the-board 20 percent reduction in stroke risk.”

The findings are particularly concerning for African-Americans, who are five times more likely to consume Southern foods than whites. Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that it is important for healthcare providers to educate their patients on nutrition as well as make recommendations based on their eating habits.

“We’ve known that diets high in saturated fats and deep fried foods and low in fruits and vegetables are tied to greater health risks,” Keith Ayoob, who is unaffiliated with the study and is an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told ABC News.

In the past, other studies have also examined the risk of stroke, with Southerners having a 20 percent higher likelihood of suffering a stroke compared to people living in other regions in the US. Stroke symptoms include confusion, difficulty seeing, dizziness, headache, and weakness or sudden numbness in the body. According to CBS News, the American Stroke Association is working to reduce the risk of stroke with the campaign “Power to End Stroke”.