We probably could have predicted the outcomes of a recent and well done study. Does a typical Southern diet, rich in fried foods, fatty foods, eggs, processed meats like bacon and ham, organ meats, and sugar rich drinks, promote heart disease? Some clues were available. The yearly map of rates of obesity by state in the U.S. show the Southeast to have the greatest problem with weight. Paula Dean and her cooking led to her declaration that she had diabetes and changes in her recipes. Now researchers from the National Institutes of Health have put the "sugar coating" on the topic by providing strong data condemning this pattern of eating.
The researchers used data from 17,418 participants in Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS), a national, population-based, longitudinal study of white and black adults aged ≥45 years. They were enrolled from 2003-2007 and followed for nearly 6 years. Five primary dietary patterns of eating were identified from standard questionnaires: Convenience, Plant-based, Sweets, Southern, and Alcohol and Salad. A total of 536 acute coronary heart disease (CHD) events like heart attacks and death occurred in follow-up. After adjustment for a variety of factors, highest consumers of the Southern pattern experienced a 56 percent higher risk of CHD events. The Plant Based dietary pattern had the lowest hazard of a acute CHD event.
What lessons can be drawn from this research? Lead author Dr. James Shikany of the University of Alabama suggested that "gradual changes to diet" were prudent with reducing fried or processed foods from "every day to three days a week as a start". While that recommendation is likely not to ruffle the feathers of Southern gentlemen and ladies, I recommend we start with a national policy to ban all foods of these types from medical facilities. It is a blight on the American medical system that foods associated with CHD, diabetes, obesity and cancer are served regularly to patients and their guests in hospitals. How about the fried and Southern foods studied here require a warning label that announces the increased risk of CHD and other chronic illness? That would make the Colonel's bucket more truthful that it is "finger lickin'" bad. Finally, children should be fed diets that follow the Plant Based dietary pattern at schools and at home to stem the skyrocketing rates of childhood food borne illnesses that accompany the Standard American Diet, Southern style particularly. The fat truth is out.