Eating fried foods tied to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease

People who eat a lot of fried foods may have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to a large, long-term study.

Led by Leah Cahill, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and An Pan of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, the researchers examined data from more than 100,000 men and women over about 25 years. They found that people who ate fried food at least once per week had a greater risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and that the risk increased as the frequency of fried food consumption increased. For instance, participants who ate fried foods 4-6 times per week had a 39% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and those who ate fried foods 7 or more times per week had a 55% increased risk, compared with those who ate fried foods less than once per week.

Eating fried foods away from home—where frying oil may not be fresh—posed the greatest risk, Cahill said. With each reuse, oil becomes more degraded, and more gets absorbed into food, which can contribute to weight gain, higher cholesterol, and higher blood pressure—all risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Trans fat-free cooking oils—increasingly used by restaurants—may pose less risk, Cahill said, although she noted in a June 20, 2014 article that she cannot give specific recommendations on the safest oils to cook with. “Our study is really a first take, and we need to know more before we can say what’s safe,” she said.

She added in an interview, “Because there is not enough research to date to clearly confirm that one type of oil is best to use for frying, it is probably wisest to alternate a variety of oils to provide you with a mix of fatty acids—much the way you would eat a variety of vegetables or fruits rather than just choosing one.”

Read the article: Fried Food Linked to Diabetes and Heart Disease—With an Asterisk

Read the study abstract: Fried-food consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease: a prospective study in 2 cohorts of US women and men

Learn more

Ask the Expert: Healthy Fats (HSPH Nutrition Source)

Risk of obesity from eating fried foods may depend on genetic makeup (HSPH release)