Fried chicken and fried fish are best avoided, and can displace other healthier foods in your diet.

They’re delicious, but fried foods are especially bad for you. It’s to do with the way they’re cooked and what they’re cooked in.

Often, they’re coated with a batter, flour or sauce then dipped in boiling oil. All of those fats add up, and they’re usually not healthy fats either. Trans fats, present in many fried foods, increase the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your body, which contributes to a risk of heart disease. What’s more – we eat a lot of fried stuff.

In 2015, Australians spent seven billion dollars on fast food meals, much of which is fried. But just how great is the risk?

American researchers followed more than 100,000 women between 1993 and 2017 as part of a study called the Women’s Health Initiative. As part of it, they got access to all sorts of data – including what the women ate. They sorted fried food into three categories – fried chicken, fried fish, and other fried foods (which included french fries and fried potatoes).

Because the women were followed for such a long time, a number had died by the time the study was being put together, and the researchers were able to see when they had died and of what cause. This helped them to link together fried food consumption with various health outcomes.

The women who ate more fried food were, as you might expect, less likely eat vegetables, fruits and grains. They drank more sugary drinks and ate more processed meat, and they generally had less education and lower income. And the more fried food they ate, the higher their risk of early death.

Compared to women who said they didn’t eat any fried food, those who ate it every day were 8 per cent more likely to die early, and an 8 per cent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Fried chicken and fried fish were both culprits at elevating this risk, though the same connection didn’t seem to exist for the “other fried foods” category. The researchers did point out that the “other” category had such a mix of foods that healthier fried foods may have softened the damage of something like a french fry.

Implications

Something interesting the authors point out is that this was an American study – and the results can probably only apply to countries with a similar food landscape, including readily-available fast food.

They say that in other countries, particularly across the Mediterranean, fried food isn’t necessarily unhealthy – especially when it’s fried in olive oil, as opposed to vegetable or seed oils.

Last Reviewed: 18/02/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

For reference: Sun, et al. (2019). Association of fried food consumption with all cause, Cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: prospective cohort study. BMJ doi: 10.1136/bmj.k5420.

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