Deep-fried foods may be causing trouble in the Deep South. People whose diets are heavy on them and sugary drinks like sweet tea and soda were more likely to suffer a stroke, a new study finds.
It's the first big look at diet and strokes, and researchers say it might help explain why blacks in the Southeast — the nation's "stroke belt" — suffer more of them.
Blacks were five times more likely than whites to have the Southern dietary pattern linked with the highest stroke risk. And blacks and whites who live in the South were more likely to eat this way than people in other parts of the country were. Diet might explain as much as two-thirds of the excess stroke risk seen in blacks versus whites, researchers concluded.
"We're talking about fried foods, french fries, hamburgers, processed meats, hot dogs," bacon, ham, liver, gizzards and sugary drinks, said the study's leader, Suzanne Judd of the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
People who ate about six meals a week featuring these sorts of foods had a 41 percent higher stroke risk than people who ate that way about once a month, researchers found.
In contrast, people whose diets were high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish had a 29 percent lower stroke risk.
"It's a very big difference," Judd said. "The message for people in the middle is there's a graded risk" — the likelihood of suffering a stroke rises in proportion to each Southern meal in a week.
Results were reported Thursday at an American Stroke Association conference in Honolulu.
The federally funded study was launched in 2002 to explore regional variations in stroke risks and reasons for them. More than 20,000 people 45 or older — half of them black — from all 48 mainland states filled out food surveys and were sorted into one of five diet styles:
—Southern: Fried foods, processed meats (lunchmeat, jerky), red meat, eggs, sweet drinks and whole milk.
—Convenience: Mexican and Chinese food, pizza, pasta.
—Plant-based: Fruits, vegetables, juice, cereal, fish, poultry, yogurt, nuts and whole-grain bread.
—Sweets: Added fats, breads, chocolate, desserts, sweet breakfast foods.
—Alcohol: Beer, wine, liquor, green leafy vegetables, salad dressings, nuts and seeds, coffee.
"They're not mutually exclusive" — for example, hamburgers fall into both convenience and Southern diets, Judd said. Each person got a score for each diet, depending on how many meals leaned that way.
Over more than five years of follow-up, nearly 500 strokes occurred. Researchers saw clear patterns with the Southern and plant-based diets; the other three didn't seem to affect stroke risk.
There were 138 strokes among the 4,977 who ate the most Southern food, compared to 109 strokes among the 5,156 people eating the least of it.
There were 122 strokes among the 5,076 who ate the most plant-based meals, compared to 135 strokes among the 5,056 people who seldom ate that way.
The trends held up after researchers took into account other factors such as age, income, smoking, education, exercise and total calories consumed.
Fried foods tend to be eaten with lots of salt, which raises blood pressure — a known stroke risk factor, Judd said. And sweet drinks can contribute to diabetes, the disease that celebrity chef Paula Deen — the queen of Southern cuisine — revealed she had a year ago.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, drugmaker Amgen Inc. and General Mills Inc. funded the study.
"This study does strongly suggest that food does have an influence and people should be trying to avoid these kinds of fatty foods and high sugar content," said an independent expert, Dr. Brian Silver, a Brown University neurologist and stroke center director at Rhode Island Hospital.
"I don't mean to sound like an ogre. I know when I'm in New Orleans I certainly enjoy the food there. But you don't have to make a regular habit of eating all this stuff."
newsy bits for the fam
Festival International de Louisiane is right around the corner — April 23-27 — and IND Monthly’s second annual Fest fIND contest is along for the ride.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
Georgia-based fried chicken chain would go up against Raising Cane’s, Chick-fil-A and others (like the Popeyes near its proposed location).
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The perfect color for Easter Sunday
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
A Scott businessman has pleaded guilty to failing to report a conspiracy to award Opelousas Housing Authority construction bids to his company.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
Egg-citing ideas for sharing at family gatherings
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, April 15, 2014:
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Court-appointed examiner says Lafayette businessman was “effectively on both sides” of transactions, opens door for legal action against him.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Lafayette-based insurance broker/risk management group bought by Florida firm for undisclosed sum; principals Landry and Harris continue to run local operations.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
The life and legacy of Dave Perkins will be commemorated with a special INDesign Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the 2014 event on April 24.
Easy crafts in time for Easter
The Cane Fire Film Series presents “The Great Flood” on Monday, April 14, at the AcA.