Eating fried chicken and fish ‘linked to premature death’

Eating deep fried foods, especially chicken and fish, increases the risk of early death, research suggests.

One serving or more of any fried foods each day – such as chips or a fried chicken sandwich – increases the risk of death by 8% compared to eating none, experts found.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found particularly strong links with fried chicken and fish – foods that the authors assumed were mostly deep fried.

It found that one or more servings of fried chicken a day was linked to a 13% higher risk of death from any cause and a 12% higher risk of heart-related death compared with no fried food.

We have identified a risk factor for cardiovascular mortality that is readily modifiable by lifestyle and cooking choices

Meanwhile, one or more servings of fried fish or shellfish a day was linked to a 7% higher risk of death from any cause and a 13% higher risk of heart-related death.

Experts also found a link with even fewer servings of fish and chicken.

The findings held true even when other factors such as exercise levels were taken into account.

The research followed 106,966 women aged 50 to 79 who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study between 1993 and 1998.

Over an average 18-year follow up, 31,558 of the women died, including 9,320 from heart problems, 8,358 from cancer and 13,880 from other causes.

The authors, led by a team from the University of Iowa in the US, concluded: “Frequent consumption of fried foods, especially fried chicken and fried fish/shellfish, was associated with a higher risk of all cause and cardiovascular mortality in women in the US.”

They added: “We have identified a risk factor for cardiovascular mortality that is readily modifiable by lifestyle and cooking choices.

“Reducing the consumption of fried foods, especially fried chicken and fried fish/shellfish, could have a clinically meaningful effect across the public health spectrum.”

The researchers found no specific link between cancer deaths and eating fried foods.

Those women who ate the most fried food tended to be younger, non-white, less educated and on a lower income.

Those eating the most fried foods also tended to eat fewer vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and more sugary drinks, nuts, salt and red and processed meat.

Tracy Parker, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said that simple changes in how foods are cooked can make a big difference to heart health: “Fried foods are usually higher in calories, fat and salt, and portion sizes are often larger – especially when you eat out or order in.

“And if you eat a lot of fried food then it often follows that your wider diet and lifestyle could be healthier. This is a recipe for trouble, which can lead not only to weight gain but other health issues, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – all risk factors for developing heart and circulatory diseases in later life.

“The good news is that using healthier cooking methods at home – such as baking, grilling or roasting, and choosing healthier options while eating out – are simple changes that can make a big difference to your heart health.”

- Press Association

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