Being, living Southern increases risks

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

As Southerners, we are proud of and enjoy our native cuisine.

Fried chicken.


Liver and gizzards.



All of it deep fried, and served with a side of syrupy sweet tea.

But the price we pay for these delicacies is a higher risk of stroke, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference last week.

“We’ve got three major factors working together in the Southern-style diet to raise risks of cardiovascular disease: fatty foods are high in cholesterol, sugary drinks are linked to diabetes and salty foods lead to high blood pressure,” said Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead researcher and a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s biostatistics department.

Previous research has shown that Southerners are about 20 percent more likely to have a stroke than the rest of Americans.

Comparing the dietary habits of more than 20,000 black and white adults, researchers found:

Eating lots of Southern cuisine is linked to increased stroke risk.

A Southern-style diet includes fried foods, organ meats, sugary drinks and a lot of salt.

African-Americans are five times more likely to eat Southern foods, which may help explain their higher stroke risk.

Those whose diets were highest in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains (eaten about five times a week) had a 29 percent lower stroke risk than those whose diets were the lowest in these foods (eaten about three times a week).

The study raises red flags for all of us in the South, who like our fried chicken and sweet tea. We can enjoy these delicacies in moderation while still improving our health by adding healthier choices to our diets.