Southern specialties like fried chicken, battered fish, and buttery bread pudding are sometimes referred to, jokingly, as a "heart attack on a plate." Now a study in Circulation has confirmed that people who eat a Southern-style diet are indeed at increased risk for heart attacks.
Researchers looked at the eating patterns of 17,400 healthy people over age 45 across the U.S., about half of them from the South. Over the course of six years they found that those who most consistently ate Southern style—lots of fried and fatty foods, processed meats such as bacon and ham, and sugary drinks—were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease than those who rarely ate like this.
The findings help explain why Southern states have some of the highest rates of heart disease as well as strokes (the region has been dubbed the “stroke belt”). Southern-style eaters were more likely to smoke, be physically inactive, weigh more, and have a lower socioeconomic background than other groups, but even when the researchers controlled for such factors, coronary risk remained high.