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Study Links Daily Consumption of Fried Foods to Death Risk

Hold the fries — and fried chicken and fish, which were shown as the worst offenders

Fried ribs and chicken

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En español | For postmenopausal women, a diet high in fried foods has been linked to a higher risk of death and heart-related deaths in particular. That’s according to a study published this week in the journal BMJ, which found that women who ate one or more servings of fried food a day had an 8 percent higher risk of death than those who abstained.

The study, which tracked more than 100,000 U.S. women ages 50 to 79 over several years, asked participants about their consumption of foods like fried chicken, fried fish and french fries. 

Fried chicken and fish in particular emerged as culprits: One or more weekly servings of fried chicken, for example, was linked to a 13 percent higher risk of death from any cause and a 12 percent higher risk of heart-related death compared to no consumption. Similarly, one or more weekly servings of fried fish or shellfish was linked to a 7 percent higher risk of death from any cause and a 13 percent higher risk of heart-related death. 

While previous studies have noted the relationship between fried food consumption and other health outcomes, such as the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, the link to mortality hasn’t been as firmly established. According to study author Wei Bao, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa, more research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms at play. Factors like frying temperature, oil type and other nutritional properties of fried foods (such as added sodium) could all play a role, he says.

As for fried-food lovers looking to mitigate their risk, Bao suggests aiming to eat fried food less frequently and opting for a smaller portion size when you do indulge. After all, he says, “many people, including me, like to eat those foods occasionally.” Or, he notes, it may also be time to get more into grilling.