BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- An Alabama researcher says Southern cooking may be responsible for the South's reputation as a stroke belt, as well as diabetes belt and obesity belt.
Suzanne Judd of the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed a national survey on what people ate, which included in-person medical assessment of participants' height, weight and blood pressure, an electrocardiogram; and a blood test.
The study found people who ate Southern food about six times a week had a 41 percent greater risk of stroke than those who had it about once a month.
"This was common whether someone was black or white, male or female, and whether or not they lived inside or outside of the South," Judd said in a statement.
Southern diet is comprised of a high intake of foods such as fried chicken, fried fish, fried potatoes, bacon, ham, liver, gizzards and sugary drinks such as sweet tea. In addition to being high in fat, fried foods tend to be heavily salted, Judd said. "We've got three major factors working together in the Southern-style diet to raise risks of cardiovascular disease: fatty foods are high in cholesterol, sugary drinks are linked to diabetes and salty foods lead to high blood pressure."
Judd recommended replacing some fatty and salty dishes with fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Previous research showed Southerners were about 20 percent more likely than those in the rest of America to have a stroke.
The study presented at an American Stroke Association conference in Honolulu.