The South is called the Stroke Belt because its residents are more likely to have a stroke than are people in other parts of the country. And now University of Alabama researchers think they know why: It’s all that fried chicken, bacon, ham, pies and sweet tea.
The researchers, who presented their results at the International Stroke Conference last week, found that those who ate typical Southern food six times a week had a 41 percent increased risk of stroke over those who ate it only once a month.
In African Americans, the stroke risk was five times higher than for whites. (A stroke occurs when a clot breaks off from a clogged artery and blocks blood flow to the brain.)
Those who ate the most Southern food lived in the seven states that make up the Stroke Belt — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, reported MedPage Today.
Lead researcher Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., a nutritional epidemiologist at the university, said the study is the first large-scale effort to look at stroke and the typical Southern diet, which is heavy on salty, fatty foods and sugary drinks.
The high amount of salt in deep-fried food raises blood pressure, a known stroke risk factor, Judd said. And sweet drinks can contribute to diabetes, the disease that celebrity chef Paula Deen, the queen of Southern cuisine, revealed she had a year ago, the Associated Press noted.
“Diet is an overlooked risk factor for stroke,” Judd told MedPage Today. Unfortunately, “stroke patients or patients with risk factors for stroke are rarely referred for dietary counseling.”
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