Eating fried foods frequently increases your risk of a heart attack, correct? Not entirely, according to a new Spanish study. Mounting evidence actually indicates that this widely held belief is a myth.
The study is only the latest among a string of researches that arrived at the same results: the cooking method, particularly frying, is not associated with an increased risk for a heart attack; using and/or reusing saturated fats to fry foods is what makes the fried foods unhealthy.
According to the Spanish research, which was featured in the British Medical Journal, the frequency of consumption of fried foods by people in Spain has no association with heart disease risk specifically because they mostly use olive and sunflower oils when frying. The study involved more than 40,000 participants and was carried out between the mid 1990s and 2004.
The participants were divided into four groups, based on the amount of their fried food consumption. The researchers found that the incidence of heart disease among those who ate fried foods more frequently was not significantly different from those with the lowest frequency of fried food intake. While there were a total of 606 cases associated with heart disease, the incidences were uniformly spread out among the groups.
The study’s conclusion states, “In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death.”
One study conducted by an international team and another one from Costa Rica were also unable to establish a link between high consumption of fried foods and heart disease.
The British Heart Foundation, however, reminds Brits that the results also mean they can eat all the fried foods they want. The study only looked at the Mediterranean diet which is already a very healthy diet as a whole. And according to Germany’s University of Regensburg Professor, Michael Leitzmann, in his comments on the published article, while available evidence proves that the belief that frying food is bad for heart health is a myth, it is a known fact that fried food has higher calories and it contributes to obesity and high blood pressure.
“Before we all reach for the frying pan it’s important to remember that this was a study of a Mediterranean diet, rather than British fish and chips,” adds British Heart Foundation senior heart health dietitian, Victoria Taylor. “Our diet in the UK will differ from Spain, so we cannot say that this result would be the same for us too.”
The good news is, statistics show that the quantity of olive oil consumed in Britain has doubled in the last ten years; presently, approximately 28 million liters of olive oil are consumed by Brits every year.
On the other side of the pond, the authors pointed out that Americans often fry their foods in oils that have already been used and which are higher in trans-fats. Additionally, American fried foods often have a high salt content.
Taylor adds that the results of the study give Brits more reason to swap the saturated fats in their diets with unsaturated fats to keep their cholesterol down. She reminds British consumers that, “A well-balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and veg and only a small amount of high fat foods, is best for a healthy heart.”