Fried foods, such as fried fish, chicken, and many items from fast-food restaurants, are common in Western diets. However, multiple studies have tied the consumption of fried foods to a greater risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality.
A recent study published in the journal Heart analyzed 19 previous studies to determine how consumption of fried foods is linked to cardiovascular disease and death. The researchers found that eating fried foods is directly linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. Moreover, the dose-response relationship is linear; the risk of cardiovascular events in the study increased with each 4 oz weekly serving. Just one additional 4 oz serving per week increased the risk of heart failure by about 12%. The foods analyzed in the study included a wide range of fried ingredients, such as potatoes, chicken, and fish.
A second study, published in the BMJ, looked at women ages 50–79 to see how consumption of fried foods affected their risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. The study included over 100,000 women and grouped fried foods into three categories: fried chicken, fried fish/shellfish, and other fried foods. The researchers found a significant association between consumption of fried foods and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. The association was particularly strong for fried chicken and fish/shellfish. Women who ate fried chicken once or more per week increased their risk of all-cause mortality by about 12% and their risk of cardiovascular mortality by about 11% compared to women who ate no fried chicken. The study controlled for age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, BMI, and other lifestyle factors.
Fried foods may impact heart disease risk and all-cause mortality for several reasons. They are usually high in calories and very palatable, which increases the likelihood of overeating. Many fried foods, especially those from fast-food restaurants, also contain relatively high amounts of trans fats. Trans fats have also been linked to many health issues and are banned in several countries and U.S. states, but they are still present in some fast-food items —including burgers, fries, and fried chicken. Frying also increases chemical byproducts in food, which may increase the body’s inflammatory response. Fried foods have already been linked to obesity, hypertension, and many other health issues, and these new studies directly linking fried foods to heart disease and death give us yet another reason to avoid them.