A new study of over 21,000 people ages 45 and older shows that the Southern diet of fried foods, sweet tea and takeout may be killing us. The study examined the link between diet and sudden cardiac death; the abrupt loss of heart function. Sudden cardiac death is a common cause of death and accounted for 1 in every 7.5 deaths in the United States in 2016, or nearly 367,000 deaths, according to 2019 American Heart Association statistics.
Regularly eating a Southern-style diet may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, while routinely consuming a Mediterranean diet may reduce that risk, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.
Participants in a large-scale study who more commonly consumed a Southern-style diet – high in added fats, fried foods, processed meats and sugary drinks – had a higher risk of sudden cardiac death than people who had lower adherence to a Southern-style diet.
The Southern diet is characterized by added fats, fried foods, eggs, organ meats (such as liver or giblets), processed meats (such as deli meat, bacon and hotdogs) and sugar-sweetened beverages.
“While this study was observational in nature, the results suggest that diet may be a modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death, and, therefore, diet is a risk factor that we have some control over,” said James M. Shikany, Dr.P.H., F.A.H.A., the study’s lead author and professor of medicine and associate director for research in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
- Overall, participants who ate a Southern-style diet most regularly had a 46% higher risk of sudden cardiac death than people who had the least adherence to this dietary pattern.
- Also, participants who most closely followed the traditional Mediterranean diet had a 26% lower risk of sudden cardiac death than those with the least adherence to this eating style.
Mediterranean Diet May Lead to Better Health
“Improving one’s diet – by eating a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish such as the Mediterranean diet and low in fried foods, organ meats and processed meats, characteristics of the Southern-style dietary pattern, may decrease one’s risk for sudden cardiac death,” he said.
The main components of Mediterranean diet include:
- Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
- Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
- Moderate portions of dairy products
- Limited intake of red meat
Other important elements of the Mediterranean diet are sharing meals with family and friends, enjoying a glass of red wine and being physically active.