It may be a Southern staple, but fried fish could be a major reason why the United States has a “stroke belt.”
Research presented in the “Neurology” journal says that people who live in stroke belt states have a greater risk of dying than those from other states — and fried fish may be one big culprit.
The states in question: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. There, the risk of dying from stroke is higher than in other parts of the country. In Alabama, the stroke death rate is 125 per every 100,000 people, against a national average of just 98 per 100,000.
It comes from a study called REGARDS, which followed 21,675 people over the age of 45 between January 2003 and October 2007, and continues to follow them for health events.
It is well known that omega-3 fats in fish could reduce the risk of stroke. What is less appreciated is that frying fish leads to the loss of omega-3 fats. Health authorities have long recommended two servings of fatty fish a week, though few Americans meet that. Those in the stroke belt were 17% less likely to get two servings of non-fried fish than other Americans.
What’s more: people in the stroke belt were 30% more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish. This might, the researchers speculate, help explain the geographic differences in strokes and death by stroke.
One of the next steps in this research, the authors write, will be to find out if people who eat higher amounts of non-fried fish have less risk of stroke than people who don’t eat a lot of fish or eat more fried fish.
In the meantime, the evidence is fairly clear. Don’t be fooled into believing fish to be healthy if it is covered in deep-fried batter. As the study shows, fried fish might actually reduce your level of omega-3s, rather than increase them. What holds true is that eating fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines will pump your body full of the ultra-healthful nutrient we all could stand to get more of.