Death By Fried Chicken

A new study has shown that when you eat one piece of fried chicken per day, you risk “death by fried chicken”.

Details of a postmenopausal women study

This was a study by the same group that published the Women’s Health Initiative. Participants were asked whether they would take part in a dietary prospective study published in the British Medical Journal January 2019.

93,676 women were part of the study, and researchers observed them for an average of 17.9 years. There were 9,320 deaths from cardiovascular disease, 8,358 deaths from cancer, and 13,880 deaths from other causes.

Here are the results for all cause mortality

Total fried food consumption: 1% risk for less than 1 serving per week

3% risk for 2 to 3 servings per week

3% risk for 3 to 6 servings per week

8% risk for eating at least 1 serving per day

Fried chicken consumption:     6% risk for less than 2 servings per month

12% risk for 2 to 3 servings per month

13% risk for at least 1 serving per week

Fried fish/shellfish consumption: 7% risk for at least 1 serving per week

Risk factors for cardiovascular mortality

The following are the risk factors for cardiovascular mortality of the consumer of fried chicken or fish.

8% risk for less than 2 servings per month

17% risk for 2 to 3 servings per month

12% risk for at least 1 serving per week

Fried fish/shell fish consumption.: 13% risk for at least 1 serving per week

Cancer mortality from fried foods was not that clear. Here are two interesting statistics.

Cancer mortality for fried fish consumption

-8% risk for less than 3 servings per month.

Other fried food consumption:

+9% risk for less than 2 servings per month.

Discussion of the results

This has been an extensive prospective study involving a large amount of postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative. In addition the observation time was very long, namely an average of 17.9 years. These properties give the study an unusually strong statistical significance. The following features are noteworthy.

Comparing fried chicken with fried fish/shell fish

Fried chicken, prepared in the US in 40 different states has a risk of 17% to cause a heart attack or a stroke for persons that consume two or three servings per month.

Fried fish/shell fish only has a risk of 13% when eaten once per week of causing a heart attack or stroke.

Comparison between this study and a Spanish study

The authors discussed that their findings are different from a Spanish study that found no increased cardiovascular risk of deep fried chicken. They pointed out that in Spain the oil used for deep-frying is usually olive oil while in the US it is mostly corn oil. Frying causes the process of oxidation and hydrogenation, which leads to a loss of unsaturated fatty acids. Linoleic acid experiences a reduction and a corresponding trans fatty acid formation. The end result is that the concentration of trans linoleic acid increases. This may be an important factor increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in the US where the use of corn oil is common for deep-frying, but not in Spain where chefs use olive oil instead. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid and stable with cooking.

Comparison between fried fish consumption and other fried food

There was a less than average cancer risk (-8%) when fried fish consumption was compared to other fried food consumption. With other fried food consumption a +9% risk for cancer mortality was found. This is a spread of 17%. Frying fish, which contains omega-3 fatty acids may neutralize the cancer causing effect from frying other foods. Omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-oxidants. This may be the reason why fried fish/shell fish did not cause excessive cancer deaths.

Other considerations

The authors did not delve into the quality of the chicken meat in the US fast food industry. It is known that chicken farmers use an arsenic compound (“3-nitro”) for faster growth and prevention of infections among crowded living conditions of the birds.  3-nitro is a carcinogen, which contributes to cancer toxicity in humans as non-organic chicken meat contains it.

It likely would be wiser to buy organic chicken and pan-fry it in olive oil. Alternatively you may want to BBQ chicken at a low temperature.

Death By Fried Chicken

Death By Fried Chicken


Buying deep fried chicken from a fast food outlet is a favorite for many Americans. This study shows clearly that it is deep fried chicken that causes the highest heart attack and stroke mortalities in the US. But “death by fried chicken” does not have to be. The problem may be that the kitchen used the wrong fats to prepare deep fried chicken. In a similar study in Spain there was no increase in cardiovascular risk when cooks used olive oil for deep-frying chicken.

Alternative to buying fast food

The small extra step of buying organic chicken and preparing it at home in a frying pen with olive oil will pay big health dividends. Similarly, fish and shellfish prepared in olive oil at home will also not have any risks for you. A lot of people rave about the convenience of buying deep fried food and in this case deep fried chicken. This article, however, shows that it is time that we take at least some control back in our own hands to prepare healthy food for our families and ourselves. It is a poor trade to choose convenience over health!


Hospital Cafeterias Need Healthier Food

Cafeterias and fast food restaurants have come under scrutiny for offering food choices that are not compatible with healthy living. In a place where healthcare is the prime concern, like in the cafeteria of a hospital, one should hope that promoting good health should be the norm.
A U.S. wide survey tells another story: hospitals are falling short of providing meals that are healthy and heart-friendly. There are some trends, such as the availability of fresh fruit and wholegrain products, but the overall picture points to an urgent need for improvement. The survey was conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM, for short). This advocacy group for ethical and preventive medicine distributed questionnaires, inquired about sample menus as well as recipes for one of the “healthiest menu items available from the hospital’s main eating establishment”. It turned out that sixty-two percent of the “healthiest entrée” choices derived more than 30% of calories from fat, and a few derived more than 50% of calories from fat.

Although at least 80% of responding hospitals offered wholegrain products, sugar-free snacks and fresh fruit, less than a third offered a daily salad bar. Artery-clogging fats in hospital food also prevailed. Fried chicken was the top selling item in 24% of the hospital cafeterias and hamburgers in 12% of the surveyed cafeterias. Other top sellers included pizza, enchiladas and meatloaf. Less than one third offered non-dairy options or soymilk.
The recommendations to promote more health conscious food were very much common-sense: food services should offer daily salad bars, use fresh rather than canned vegetables, incorporate organic ingredients and hearty vegetarian soups daily. Fatty or cholesterol-laden add-ons such as bacon, mayonnaise, croutons and sour cream should be optional. Beans should also be offered as well as healthy items from other countries’ cuisines.

Hospital Cafeterias Need Healthier Food

Hospital Cafeterias Need Healthier Food

In the meantime it is up to the consumer to be prudent in making the better choices. This may involve turning a cold shoulder to cafeteria food and seek healthier choices elsewhere. For the visitor it may mean that bringing a brown bag or a take-away with a salad would be more appropriate than bringing a bunch of flowers for a loved one in the hospital.

More on processed foods: https://www.askdrray.com/caution-processed-food-ahead/

Reference: The Medical Post, October 25, 2005, page 15

Last edited October 29, 2014