Fried and other characteristically Southern foods could pack a triple punch in terms of stroke risk, Bakris explained.
High fat and sodium content could increase cholesterol and blood pressure, respectively, and diets laden with fried foods tend to be low in potassium-rich foods such as tomatoes, melons and avocados, which can counteract the effects of sodium.
"The Southern diet probably accounts for about half of the difference in stroke risk between black and white people," Bakris said. Making matters worse, black people tend to be more salt-sensitive, so a small amount of sodium could lead to big increases in blood pressure, he added.
The current study included more than 20,000 people in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Judd and her colleagues carried out surveys between 2003 and 2007, asking the participants how often and how much they consumed 108 foods and beverages.
The researchers found that people who ate some items were more likely to eat others, and grouped these items together into five dietary patterns: the Southern diet, consisting of fried and processed meats, greens, and sweetened iced tea; the convenience diet, made up of pasta, pizza and Mexican and Chinese food; the sweet diet, which is high in desserts and sweetened snacks; the plant-based diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables and legumes; and the salad and alcohol diet.
"The biggest surprise was that there was a Southern pattern," Judd said, adding that with migration and traveling she expected all regions of the United States to partake similarly in this type of diet.
Judd and her colleagues found that people in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Michigan and Illinois were the highest consumers of the Southern diet.
There also were racial differences between the people in the top 25th percentile for
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