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Southern Diet 'Bad' for Your Heart

Southern Diet Bad for Your Heart

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  • People who follow a Southern-style diet have a 46% increased risk of sudden cardiac death
  • Sudden cardiac death could lead to death, if not treated immediately
  • Dietary patterns rich in fruits and vegetables like the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiac death by 26%

Southern diet increases the risk of sudden cardiac death, whereas consuming Mediterranean diet might help reduce the risk of cardiovascular death, suggests the findings of an observational study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, taking the lives of 17.9 million people, according to the World Health Organization.


In 2016, 1 in every 7.5 deaths in the United States or nearly 367,000 deathswere caused due to sudden cardiac death, reveals 2019 American Heart Association (AHA) statistics.

"This study also raises important points about health equity, food security, and social determinants of health," said Dr.Stephen Juraschek, a member of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee of the Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Council.

What's New About the Study?

This study examined the data from the reports of a nationwide stroke project called Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS). This project enrolled more than 21,000 people in the forty-five-plus age group between 2003 and 2007.

Nearly half of the study participants were women, while 33% were Black adults, and 56% lived in the southeastern U.S. The participants reported the quantities of 110 different food items they have taken in the previous year. They were also given a food frequency questionnaire during the study to investigate their meal patterns.

Back in 2018 itself, Dr.James M. Shikany, lead author of the current study, and his team reported the differences in the heart disease risk of following a southern diet and Mediterranean diet among people of the same age group.

"Improving one's diet - by eating a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish such as the Mediterranean diet and low in fried foods, organ meats and processed meats, characteristics of the Southern-style dietary pattern, may decrease one's risk for sudden cardiac death," he said.

The current study could serve as the latest research that probes into different types of meal patterns. This study presents its data more like the catchy "Eat this, not that" style. The findings also highlight what we should take while choosing the constituents of our plate.

How Does Your Diet Pattern Influence Heart Disease Risk?

Based on the survey results, researchers derived five different meal patterns as follows,
  • Southern-style diet pattern: Diet with high amounts of fried foods, processed meat, and sugary beverages
  • Diet with high sweet content: Foods with added sugars like chocolates and candies
  • Convenience diet pattern: Diet with easy-to-make foods and popular eat-out foods like pasta and pizzas
  • Plant-based meal: A meal pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, and leafy greens
  • Diet with alcohol and salad: A diet with a high amount of salad vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and greens along with alcohol-based beverages like wine and beer
The team also conducted regular follow-up studies every six months for up to ten years after the initial survey. During these regular analyses, 400 sudden cardiac deaths had been reported among the 21,000 study participants.

When they tested whether these data had any relation with the diet patterns, they found that people who followed the southern-style diet had a 46% higher risk of experiencing sudden cardiac death than the people who did not follow such a diet pattern while a meal pattern that closely resembles the Mediterranean diet offered 26% lower risk of sudden cardiac death to the people who follow it than the people who did not have such a foodstyle.

"These findings support the notion that a healthier diet would prevent fatal cardiovascular disease and should encourage all of us to adopt a healthier diet as part of our lifestyles," said Dr.Juraschek.

Although the study highlights the significance of dietary patterns in maintaining heart health, the outcomes have some limitations as the data were based on questionnaire-based surveys reported directly by the participants based on their memory.

Wanna Stay Away from Heart Disease?

Here are five healthy ways to do that.
  • Know your risk and be prepared if you have a family history of heart disease
  • Eat a healthy diet. Remember the "Five-a-day" principle and have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Cut down on saturated fats and reduce your salt intake. Go for healthy snacks
  • Keep an eye out on your blood pressure levels
  • Manage a healthy weight

Reference :
  1. Mediterranean Diet Score, Dietary Patterns, and Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death in the REGARDS Study - (https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.120.019158)

Source: Medindia

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