Let’s be honest. Considering the quality of fried food in America, this is not a surprising headline.
Yet, the authors are being praised for the first large study to show increased mortality with daily fried-food consumption. The study, published in the journal BMJ, was an observational study of over 100,000 subjects enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. The results, therefore, are subject to the same caveats from which all observational studies suffer and thus provide only a weak level of evidence.
The researchers noted that the fried food consisted of primarily deep-fried items (like fried chicken, fried fish, and French fries), and found there was a very small association with increased all-cause and cardiovascular mortality (8% increased risk) for daily fried-food eaters. Surprisingly, they did not find an association with cancer deaths.
This leads us to ask, who eats deep-fried foods every day? I would guess fairly unhealthy individuals. Thus, we cannot be sure that the fried food is actually causing the small increase in mortality. It could be due to any number of other risk factors.
The most interesting reporting I found on this trial, however, compared these results to those of a similar study of fried-food consumption in Spain, that did not find an association. Although it is a hypothesis, the authors postulated that the difference may be that in Spain, most people fry their food in olive oil at home, whereas in the U.S., most fried food is prepared at fast-food restaurants using low quality industrial seed oils. As we have reported previously, industrial seed oils (also known as vegetable oils) are a much less healthy choice compared to more natural fats and oils.
While we have to admit this is a low-quality study, it still provides an opportunity to warn of the potential dangers of industrial seed oils and remind ourselves to focus on enjoying real foods including natural fats.
Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher, MD FACC
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