People who eat a ‘Southern-style’ diet are at an increased risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest, a new study finds.
Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) looked at the long-term effects on cardiovascular health from a diet that primarily consists of added fats, fried food and sugar-sweetened beverage.
They were compared with people who primarily eat a Mediterranean diet – high in fruits vegetables, fish, whole grains and legumes and low in meat and dairy – over the span of ten years.
Results showed Southern-style dieters were 46 percent more likely to suffer sudden cardiac arrest – the abrupt loss of heart function – than the general population.
By comparison, Americans who were on a Mediterranean diet were 24 percent less likely to die from the life-threatening emergency.
Eating a southern-style diets that include heavy fats and sugars could increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest by 46 percent a study finds
The Southern diet consists of well-known dishes such as fried chicken and waffles, grits, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, sweet tea, mashed potatoes and a variety of pies.
A mix of Scottish, Irish, African, Native American and Caribbean influences, the food grew from a culture of family get-togethers, passing large servings of indulgent, warming dishes around the table.
But it’s also led to a high incident of heart disease, diabetes and strokes, earning the dubious nickname, the ‘Stroke Belt.’
Study declares the Southern diet is the MAIN reason African Americans have higher blood pressure risk than whites
The ‘Southern diet’ of deep-fried meats, sweet bread and soda is the main reason why African-Americans have a higher risk of high blood pressure than whites, a new study concludes.
Eating large amounts of fried foods, meats, eggs and sugar makes black Americans twice as likely to suffer hypertension than their white peers.
Blacks were found to be at a 1.5 to two times higher risk for hypertension than whites
The diet accounted for 51.6% of the higher risk of hypertension among black men and 29.2% among black women
The lead authors of the study, published today in the Journals of the American Medical Association, described the food culture of the south as the ‘perfect storm of a diet’, ramping up blood sugar and bad cholesterol levels.
They admit they were surprised that the diet was a clearer driving factor than stress or depression, since fatty food is popular across all communities.
But a crucial difference is that white neighborhoods have greater access to fresh food as an alternative, while restaurants serving this so-called ‘American comfort food’ are more common in predominantly black neighborhoods.
‘While this study was observational in nature, the results suggest that diet may be a modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death, and, therefore, diet is a risk factor that we have some control over,’ said lead author Dr James Shikany, a professor of medicine at UAB.
‘Improving one’s diet – by eating a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish such as the Mediterranean diet and low in fried foods, organ meats and processed meats, characteristics of the Southern-style dietary pattern, may decrease one’s risk for sudden cardiac death.’
For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the team recruited about 21,000 people aged 45 or older.
Each participant was regularly surveyed on what foods they ate and how often they ate them and routinely screened every six months for ten years to judge cardiovascular health.
It was also noted if one of the participants had a cardiovascular even such as a heart attack or going into cardiac arrest at some point.
More than 400 study participants ended up dying of sudden cardiac arrests during the study with Southern-style diets found to be the biggest contributing factor unhealthy.
It has to do with more than just geography, researchers explain, and the socioeconomic conditions many who eat these diets face.
‘These findings support the notion that a healthier diet would prevent fatal cardiovascular disease and should encourage all of us to adopt a healthier diet as part of our lifestyles,’ said Dr Stephen Juraschek, a member of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee of the Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Council.
‘This study also raises important points about health equity, food security and social determinants of health.
The authors describe the Southern-style diet’ based on the U.S. geography associated with this dietary pattern, yet it would be a mistake to assume that this is a diet of choice.
‘I think American society needs to look more broadly at why this type of diet is more common in the South and clusters among some racial, ethnic or socioeconomic groups to devise interventions that can improve diet quality.
‘The gap in healthy eating between people with means and those without continues to grow in the U.S., and there is an incredible need to understand the complex societal factors that have led and continue to perpetuate these disparities.’
While the scope of the study was enormous – over 20,000 people from across America, across different ethnic groups over the course of a decade – there are still some flaws in the research.
Because data on food habits is self reported, it is likely that people did not properly report how often they ate certain foods.
Participants may also have inherent biases and not want to reveal how often they ate certain types of food to the researchers.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing one person every 36 seconds.
Causes for heart disease are often tied to dietary decisions, and conditions effected by diet such as diabetes and obesity.