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Fried Food and Heart Disease: Study Details continued...

Fried food was about 7% of all food eaten.

During the follow up, 606 heart attacks and other heart ''events'' occurred, and 1,135 deaths occurred from all causes.

When the researchers looked at the heart disease and deaths, they found no link between fried food, whatever the intake, and heart disease or death from any cause.

As for why, Guallar-Castillon says, "Food was fried with oil rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart-healthy." Olive oil has antioxidants that may protect the heart.

Fried Foods and Heart Disease: Strive for a Balanced Diet

"This is an interesting study that provides some 'food for thought’ but no conclusive evidence that frying is good for you," says Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

She notes some study limitations: Diet information was collected only at the start. And the information on cooking methods -- pan vs. deep fry -- was lumped together.

What matters, she tells WebMD, is how the whole diet balances out. "If someone chooses to prepare something by frying, then what goes with that food should be prepared in a different manner to keep the fat in the meal balanced," Diekman says.

The type of fat matters, she says. Olive oil, for instance, is viewed as more heart-healthy than trans fats. "Overall calorie intake counts, and too many calories from any type of fat isn't a good thing."

The diet habits studied appear quite different than those of typical U.S. consumers, says Andrea Giancoli, RD, MPH, a Santa Monica, Calif., dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"The bottom line here is, most of what they were consuming were these healthful oils -- olive and sunflower -- and a lot of fish. The Mediterranean diet is different from ours," she says.

The study results are not surprising, given that most of the oils were the heart-healthy type, says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science at Tufts University in Boston.

She says self-report of diet is another limitation, as it can be inaccurate. She notes that those who said they ate the highest amount of fried food took in about 600 more calories a day than those who said they ate little fried food, yet their body mass indexes were similar.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Michael Leitzmann, MD, of the University of Regensburg in Germany, notes that the body of evidence refutes the myth that frying food is generally bad for the heart. "However," he writes, "this does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences."

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