Good news for people who enjoy eating fried food and who also happen to be worried about their heart health. Having foods fried in oils like sunflower or olive has not been linked to either heart disease or early death according to new Spanish research…
Eating lots of fried foods has been associated in the past with high blood pressure, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and obesity – all risk factors for heart disease. This latest work puts a different spin on things.
The study followed over 40,000 adults (aged 29-69) who did not have heart disease at the beginning of the work, collecting diet information including details on what they’d eaten (and how it was cooked) in a normal week – there were a total of 668 different foods, with just over 200 that were fried, for them to choose.
Frying methods were also captured and included deep-frying, pan frying or sautéed. Most people fried in olive oil, known to have antioxidants that help keep the heart working properly.
Important to understand is that most meals study participants ate were prepared and eaten at home… unlike the U.S. where we eat out so much it’s hard to know what type of oil might be used in a dish. The subjects in this study were not eating anything close to a typical Western diet, but rather the Mediterranean eating style. Lots of fish… olive and sunflower oils.
The researchers divided the study participants up into four groups, based on how much fried foods they ate – the group who ate the least had 1.6 ounces a day, the highest intake was 8.8 ounces per day. On average the subjects ate a little under 5 ounces per day of fried foods using just half an ounce of oil in which to prepare them.
During the study period, 606 heart attacks (or other heart “events”) happened and 1,135 subjects died from all causes. The team saw no link between either heart disease or deaths and fried food, no matter how high the intake. This finding may be because the fried food was cooked with oils that are rich in heart healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Also of note, the Spanish have one of the world’s lowest levels of heart disease.
When looking at this work, you need to understand that in Spain, where the study was done, olive oil is less expensive than anywhere else in the world, and there aren’t the other options that you’ll find in the U.S. Most of us are used to olive oil being the more costly alternative.
In an accompanying editorial to the study it is pointed out that the evidence defies the myth that fried foods are so bad for your heart. This isn’t to suggest that you go all out and order whatever fried indulgence you like… but it does suggest that frying might not be all bad.
Other experts agree that while there’s something to consider here, it should not encourage you to be eating fried food all the time and expect benefits for your heart. You need to remember that what matters is how your entire diet balances out – if you’re making something fried, try to make sure the rest of the meal is cooked another way to balance things out.