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Fried food isn't as bad as we think

Fried food isn't as bad as we think - says new research
IT’S sometimes called a heart attack on a plate, but new research today suggests the link between fried food and heart disease isn’t as clear cut as we think.
If we cook the Mediterranean way and use olive or sunflower oil to fry food, Spanish researchers claim there is no link with heart disease or premature death. But they have also warned this research is not a licence to eat fried foods and takeaways in the UK, warning that solid and re-used oils may be used for frying outside of Mediterranean countries.
And dietitians have urged people to cut down on the amount of saturated fat they eat, as figures suggest two out of three people have raised cholesterol levels.
Eating lots of fried food can increase some heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, but a link between fried food and heart disease has not been fully investigated.
Research published on today, and led by Professor Pilar Guallar-Castillón (corr)from Autonomous University of Madrid, examined the cooking methods of more than 40,000 adults aged 29 to 69 over 11 years. None of the participants had heart disease at the start of the study and during the course of the research, there were 606 events linked to heart disease and 1,134 deaths.
The authors said: “In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death.”
And in an accompanying editorial also published on, Professor Michael Leitzmann(corr), from the University of Regensburg(corr), in Germany, said the study explodes the myth that “frying food is generally bad for the heart”.
But he said this “does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences”, adding that what type of oil is used to fry foods is relevant.
Helen Bond, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said that while not all fats are bad, people need to reduce the amount of saturated fat they eat. She said: “Fried foods cooked in sunflower or olive oil tend to be heart healthier but if people in Britain are getting into the takeaway culture and eating large amounts of saturated fats, which you tend to get in processed food, then it will have a big effect on their cholesterol levels.”
“It is good to have a certain amount of fat but it shouldn’t be the backbone of our diets.”
“A Mediterranean diet has long been known to be good for the heart and, as dietitians, we’re always trying to get people to adapt to a Mediterranean style of eating. So, when you use oil to cook or fry, olive, sunflower or rape seed oils are very good.”
Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Before we all reach for the frying pan, it’s important to remember that this was a study of a Mediterranean diet rather than British fish and chips.
“Our diet in the UK will differ from Spain, so we cannot say that this result would be the same for us too.
“We currently recommend swapping saturated fats like butter, lard or palm oil for unsaturated fats as a way of keeping your cholesterol down, and this study gives further cause to make that switch.
“Regardless of the cooking methods used, consuming foods with high fat content means a high calorie intake. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
“A well-balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables and only a small amount of high fat foods, is best for a healthy heart

By Madeleine Brindley Health Editor

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