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Deep-fried food may raise stroke risk

Diets heavy in fried and sugary food may explain higher risks of stroke among black people in the South.

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Diets heavy in fried and sugary food may explain higher risks of stroke among black people in the South.

Deep-fried foods may be causing trouble in the Deep South. People whose diets are heavy on them and sugary drinks like sweet tea and soda were more likely to suffer a stroke, a new study finds.

It is the first big look at diet and strokes, and researchers said it may explain why black people in the Southeast, the “stroke belt,” suffer more of them.

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Black people were five times more likely than white people to have the Southern dietary pattern linked with the highest stroke risk. And people who live in the South were more likely to eat this way than people in other parts of the country. Diet might explain as much as two-thirds of the excess stroke risk seen in blacks versus whites, researchers concluded.

“We’re talking about fried foods, french fries, hamburgers, processed meats, hot dogs,” bacon, ham, liver, gizzards, and sugary drinks, said the study’s leader, Suzanne Judd of the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

People who ate about six meals a week featuring these sorts of foods had a 41 percent higher stroke risk than people who ate that way about once a month, researchers found.

In contrast, people whose diets were high in fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish had a 29 percent lower stroke risk.

“It’s a very big difference,” Judd said. “The message for people in the middle is there’s a graded risk,” meaning the likelihood of suffering a stroke rises in proportion to each Southern meal in a week.

The federally funded study was launched in 2002 to explore regional variations in stroke risks and reasons for them. More than 20,000 people 45 or older, half of them black, from 48 states filled out surveys.

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