Study leader George Howard of the University of Alabama at Birmingham says fried fish -- a Southern staple -- may be why people in Alabama and other Southern states are more likely than other Americans to die of a stroke.
The study, published online in Neurology, finds those in the Southern states "stroke belt" are 30 percent more likely than other Americans to eat two or more servings of fried fish a week.
While the American Heart Association recommends eating non-fried fish twice weekly, people in the stroke belt -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee -- are 17 percent less likely to meet this recommendation.
"Our study showed that stroke belt residents, especially African-Americans, eat more fried fish than Caucasians and people living in the rest of the country," Howard says in a statement.
The findings are part of the long-running Reasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke trial with 21,675 participants age 45 and older.
The Alabama stroke death rate is 125 per every 100,000 people -- versus the national average of 98 per 100,000.