According to an analysis of 17 published studies, eating fried foods is linked to an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure. What’s more, the findings revealed the risk rises with each additional 114 g weekly serving of fried foods, including fried fish, fried chicken, fried potatoes and French fries, and fried snacks.
Several studies have associated fried food consumption with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease risk factors such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. However, studies have turned up mixed findings on the relationship between eating fried foods and the risk of heart disease.
To shed light on this, researchers from China pooled data from 17 previous studies, involving 562,445 participants, that investigated the link between fried food intake and cardiovascular disease.
The analysis showed that compared with the lowest weekly intake of fried food consumption, the highest weekly intake was associated with a 28% increased risk of major cardiovascular events (e.g., heart attack and stroke), a 22% greater risk of developing coronary heart disease, and a 37% greater likelihood of heart failure.
Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle weakens and cannot pump enough blood fast enough to meet the needs of the body. As a result, fluid accumulates in the lungs, hands, ankles, or other parts of the body.
The increased risk of fried food remained when the researchers analyzed the data by participant age, gender, body weight, physical activity level, and calorie intake.
Several studies in the analysis looked at only one type of fried food, such as fried fish, potatoes, or snacks, rather than total fried food intake. This may have underestimated the associations found, suggested the researchers.
One limitation of the research is that the included studies relied on self-reported dietary questionnaires to measure fried food intake, which are subject to error.
How fried foods may harm heart health
Still, there are a number of plausible ways in which fried foods may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. First, fried foods contain a high amount of fat. Because dietary fat is calorie-dense, a steady intake of fried foods can lead to increased calorie intake and weight gain, including abdominal weight gain.
Foods that have been fried in industrial partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fatty acids, unhealthy fats that raise LDL (bad) blood cholesterol and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol. The use of partially hydrogenated oils – a major source trans fats – has been banned in Canada and the U.S. since 2018. In Europe, a maximum limit for trans fats in food was established in 2019, and phasing out is underway.
Frying also increases the level of harmful compounds in foods, such as oxidized cholesterol and advanced glycation end products, both which are involved in inflammation and oxidative damage in cardiovascular disease.
Finally, fried foods in restaurants, like fried chicken and French fries, are usually high in sodium; a high sodium intake has been associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
Source: Heart, January 18, 2021.
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