When shopping at my local book store, I can just feel my taste buds start salivating as my arteries start to clog just a bit as I peruse the cookbook section. One shelf features Paula Deen’s cookbooks, as well as those of her sons. Another cookbook by the Lee Brothers focuses on stories and recipes for Southerners and those who want to be Southerners. There are all those cookbooks by the chefs from New Orleans (Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, etc.). And there are the cookbooks published by Southern Living magazine. All of these cookbooks offer wonderful Southern flavor; however, some of the recipes may not be the best things to eat on a regular basis if you value your health.
Why? According to a new study that was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2013, there appears to be a link between a regular diet of Southern-style foods and a higher risk of stroke. This is the first large-scale study on the relationship between Southern foods and stroke. Previous research has suggested that Southerners face a 20-percent higher risk of stroke than the rest of Americans.
This new study involved more than 20,000 people from 48 states who were part of the ongoing Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study, which began in 2003. The participants, who were either white or black, were all at least 45 years old. Furthermore, an equal number of men and women participated in this study.
At the start of the study, participants were asked about what foods they ate. They also went through an in-person medical assessment that included measurements of height, weight and blood pressure; an electrocardiogram; and a blood test. The researchers followed up by telephone with the study participants at six-month intervals to ask about their sleep habits, overall health and whether they had had a stroke.
Using a mathematical model, the researchers grouped foods commonly eaten by the participants into 56 different categories and then scored each participant’s eating habits based on these categories. These scores were reviewed further in relation to how often the study participants reported that they had a stroke.
The researchers also identified five diet styles based on the participants’ responses. These styles were:
- Southern – This type of diet as having a high intake of fried chicken, fried fish, fried potatoes, bacon, ham, liver and gizzards, sugary drinks such as sweet tea, whole milk, eggs and red meat.
- Convenience – This diet style included Mexican and Chinese food, pizza and pasta.
- Plant-based – this diet style included fruits, vegetables, juice, cereal, fish, poultry, yogurt, nuts and whole-grain bread.
- Sweets – This diet style included fats, breads, chocolate, desserts and sweet breakfast foods.
- Alcohol – This diet style included beer, wine, liquor, green leafy vegetables, salad dressings, nuts, seeds, and coffee.
The researchers' analysis found that: