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For some of us, fried foods are meals solely reserved for cheat days or unending bus rides. However, for the remaining majority, fried foods are quick, cheap meals to be regularly enjoyed at lunch and dinner times. In fact, more than a third of American adults enjoy fried-food every day (1).

While previous studies have highlighted the effect that fried foods can have on one’s health, there is limited evidence of their direct impact on mortality. Thus, researchers set out to investigate the link between the consumption of fast foods and death.

People know fried food may have adverse health outcomes, but there is very little scientific evidence to demonstrate what the long-term adverse outcomes are for eating fried foods,explained Dr. Wei Bao, co-author of the study.

The study on fried food and mortality

In an effort to find an association between fried food consumption and mortality, researchers from the University of Iowa College of Public Health analyzed the data of 106,966 women. These women were aged 50 to 79, and they had enrolled in a previous study. The previous study was the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study, and it occurred between 1993 and 1998.

It was during this study that the participants answered a food frequency questionnaire that inquired about consumption and portion sizes of 122 food items. These food items included fried chicken and fish, french fries, tortillas, and tacos.

The researchers followed up on these women for an average of 18 years, and made sure to include other factors related to mortality, such as education levels, total energy consumption, overall diet quality, and income, in their calculations.

Following the 18-year follow-up, the researchers discovered that 31,558 of them had died. 9,320 had passed on from heart problems, 8,358 from cancer, and 13,880 from other causes.

The resultsfried foods | Longevity LIVE

The study revealed that women who enjoy a daily intake of fried food are at an increased risk of death.

Specifically, the study revealed that women who enjoyed a daily portion of fried chicken faced a 13% higher risk of death from any cause when compared to women who did not eat any fried food. These same women also faced a 12% higher risk of cardiovascular death. Meanwhile, the women who opted for a daily portion of fried fish or shellfish faced a 7% greater risk of death and a 13% higher risk of cardiovascular death.

Interestingly, no link between fried food consumption and cancer deaths was found. The researchers also noted that the women who consumed more fast foods were younger, people of color with a low income, and lesser-educated.

The verdict

In regards to the findings, Dr. Bao believes that the combined effect from the food itself and the frying process does play a role. 

When animal products like meat and fish are cooked at high temperatures, harmful compounds called glycation products are formed. Previous studies have linked these compounds to cardiovascular mortality.

That being said, Dr. Bao chose not to globally generalize the findings globally as there are different frying practices all over the world. In fact, a previous study from Spain found no correlation between mortality and fast food. The researchers believe that this is due to the Spanish population choosing to cook at home, using olive oil.

However, in the United States, a lot of fast-food restaurants are guilty of reusing oil. This then creates more harmful products in the oil that will be absorbed into the food.

While the study was observational, the researchers do believe that we need to reduce our consumption of fried foods,

Reducing the consumption of fried foods, especially fried chicken and fried fish/shellfish, may have a clinically meaningful impact across the public health spectrum,” they said in a statement.

Want to Know More?

Fried foods won’t only affect your heart health, but they can also affect your brain health. Click here to find out which foods you need to eat if you want to keep your brain healthy and sharp.

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a beauty and wellness writer who has a passion for poetry, equality, natural hair, and skin-care. With a journalism degree from Pearson's Institute of Higher Education, and identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to continuously provide the latest information, be it beauty or wellness, on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.