Researchers say that it is a ‘myth’ that fried food causes heart attacks, as long as you use sunflower oil or olive oil. The study which was published in the British Medical Journal, say what really matters, is the type of oil used and whether it has been used before, according to their research.
The report did not find an association between the frequency of fried food consumption in Spain, where sunflower and olive oils are mostly used – and the occurrence of serious heart disease.
On the other hand, the British Heart Foundation has warned for people not to “reach for the frying pan” yet, as they explain that the Mediterranean diet was healthier than ours on a whole.
Over 40,000 Spanish people were followed from the mid 1990s to 2004, two-thirds of whom were women.
At the start of the study, they were asked how often they ate fried foods out or at home. Then they looked to see whether eating fried foods frequently increased the likelihood of getting ill from having a coronary heart disease, such as a heart attack or angina needing surgery.
The participants were divided into four groups, from the lowest fried food intake to the biggest and the researchers found no major difference in heart disease.
There were 606 incidents linked to heart disease in total, but they were divided comparatively evenly between the four groups.
The researchers concluded, “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.”
Professor Michael Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg in Germany also commented on the findings, saying that two other studies had also failed to find a strong proof of a link.
He said, “Taken together, the myth that frying food is generally bad for the heart is not supported by available evidence.
“However, this does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences.”
He did say fried food contained more calories where it had also been linked to obesity and high blood pressure.
The researchers of the Spanish study said that the findings could only really be extended to other Mediterranean countries with similar diets.
Fried foods from American style takeaways were different, as they argued that these foods were cooked in reused oils which is higher in transfat. They also tended to contain more salt, known to increase heart disease risk and blood pressure.
It will be hard for people to manage which oils you’ll be eating when dining out, but hopefully this study will be supported by other people in the food industry like suppliers, commercial restaurant insurance providers, supermarkets and cooks.
However, more people are frying with sunflower or olive oil in Britain, double that sold 10 years ago.
Senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, Victoria Taylor 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.
“Participants in this study used unsaturated fats such as olive and sunflower oil to fry their food.
“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 veg and only a small amount of high fat foods, is best for a healthy heart.”