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Chronic Health Conditions and Diseases
Article Abstracts
Sep 29, 2021
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Chronic Health Conditions and Diseases

Fried Foods and Sweet Drinks Increase Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

By KnoWEwell
Article Abstracts
Nov 29, 2021

While death certificates reveal that sudden cardiac death accounts for about 1 in 7.5 deaths in the US, scientists continue to research the causes. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) Trusted Source, a person can improve their heart health by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, proteins, and unsaturated fats. A new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, delivers yet more evidence that diet is a major contributor to cardiovascular health.

Researchers drew on information from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke Study (REGARDS), and tracked statistics of 21,069 adults aged 45 years or older, who had joined the study from 2003 to 2007, 33% of whom were Black and 56% women. Of the participants, 56% lived in the Southeastern United States, known as the Stroke Belt due to its decades-long high rate of death due to stroke.  

The lead author of the study was James M. Shikany, professor of medicine and associate director for research in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Each participant completed a questionnaire to determine which foods they had consumed most frequently in the previous 12 months. Each was given a Mediterranean diet score, reflecting their consumption of those foods. Through phones calls and food frequency questionnaires every six months for 10 years, Shikany and his team were able to gather enough information to identify five dietary patterns:

  1. Convenience: pasta, pizza, Mexican, and Chinese food.
  2. Plant-based: vegetables, fruits, cereals, legumes, yogurt, chicken, and fish.
  3. Sweets: desserts, candy, chocolate, and sugary cereal.
  4. Southern: fried foods, sweetened drinks, processed and organ meats, and eggs.
  5. Alcohol and Salad:  lots of leafy greens, dressings, tomatoes, and alcoholic drinks.

During this period, there were 401 recorded instances of sudden cardiac death among the study subjects. The study concluded that those who had adhered most closely to the Mediterranean diet had the least risk of sudden cardiac death; those who followed the Southern dietary plan were found to be most at risk.

According to Shikany, medical professionals should ask their patients about their diet just as they ask about exercise and smoking history. He believes that although nutrition science has made advancements over the past years, the message doesn’t always get to patients. Shikany said further studies and a concerted national effort on behavior change related to diet are required.


Huzar, T. (2021, July 1.). Risks of cardiac death with fried foods/high sugar diets. Medical News Today.


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