Fried food is delicious—there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. However, it could wreak havoc on your overall health if eaten in excess.
Though we’re not going to pretend that fried foods aren’t irresistible—there’s a heated fried chicken sandwich war among several fast food restaurants for a reason, right?—we won’t dodge the fact that several studies and health experts have advised against eating this type of food for years. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.)
While indulging in fried mozzarella sticks and funnel cakes from time to time won’t necessarily have an impact on your health, regularly consuming fried foods may lead to adverse complications. In light of recent research on fried food and heart health risks, we decided to detail five side effects you could experience from eating this type of food too often.
According to new research published in journal Heart, fried food intake is strongly associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke. Researchers pooled data from 17 different studies, involving more than 560,000 participants and more than 36,700 major cardiovascular events to assess cardiovascular disease risk.
What did they find? In comparison with those who ate the least amount of fried foods each week, the group who ate the highest amount had a 28% heightened risk of stroke and heart attack.
The same pooled analysis also revealed that participants who ate the highest amount of fried foods was associated with a 22% heightened risk of coronary heart disease.
Ashely Kitchens, MPH, RD, LDN previously explained to Eat This, Not That! how fried foods can wreak havoc on your heart health.
“When foods are fried they become more calorically dense because the outer part of the food loses water and absorbs the fat [or] oil,” she said. “The oils in which foods are fried can contain trans fat, which has been shown to raise your LDL.”
LDL, which stands for low-density lipoprotein, is known as the harmful type of cholesterol. High cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries and cause a form of heart disease known as atherosclerosis.
The third big takeaway from the research posted in the journal Heart was that participants who consumed the most fried foods had a 37% heightened risk of heart failure in comparison with the group who ate the least amount. Heart failure is described as a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump as much blood as it should, according to the American Heart Association.
The analysis also indicated that, with each additional 114 grams—or 1/2 cup (4 ounces)—serving of fried foods consumed per week, that risk elevates by an extra 12%.
While this side effect can’t necessarily be labeled dangerous on its own, weight gain does directly affect body fat, and studies show that chronic disease can be attributable to increased BMI. Even though a little weight gain isn’t much of a concern, continuous weight gain due to lifestyle changes may become a concern over time.
One 2014 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that frequent fried-food consumption was significantly associated with risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found similar outcomes after examining data from more than 100,000 men and women over the course 25 years.
They discovered that participants who ate fried foods between four and six times per week had a 39% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who ate it less than once a week. Even more telling? Participants who ate the stuff seven times or more per week had a 55% increased risk of developing the condition.
In an effort to cut back on the fried foods, check out 27 Air Fryer Recipes That Make Healthier Fried Foods.