Though Fox News will probably quickly turn this data into the food equivalent of Bill O'Reilly's continually perpetuated "War on Christmas," new science surrounding the consumption of what is generally considered a "southern diet" is in and the verdict is even worse than initially expected. When researchers from the University of Alabama compiled data from over 17,000 participants, namely Caucasian and African-American individuals over the age of 45 with no prior history of heart disease, they discovered several disturbing patterns.
For the uninitiated, the study defines a "Southern diet" as:
Fried foods, fatty foods, added fats, eggs, processed meats, such as bacon and ham, organ meats (e.g. liver), and sugary drinks
Those claiming a strict adherence to a Southern diet boasted a 56% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, compared to those who claimed to engage in such a diet with the least amount of frequency. Compellingly, this pattern emerges no matter what an individual does to counteract the diet, meaning variables such as "age, sex, race, education, household income, region, energy, smoking, and physical activity" didn't alter the increased risk of developing heart disease.
Although certain elements appeared to be more likely in those claiming a strict adherence to a Southern diet, particularly lower education and an income of "less than $20,000 a year," the increased risk of heart disease is prevalent in each socioeconomic class. As for which states are considered to participate in a Southern diet, the study deems North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana permanent fixtures within the so-called "stroke belt."
"Regardless of your gender, race, or where you live, if you frequently eat a Southern-style diet you should be aware of your risk of heart disease and try to make some gradual changes to your diet,” lead study author James M. Shikany tells Forbes. "Try substituting baked or grilled chicken or vegetable-based foods."
And, thus, the countdown to O'Reilly's new "War on Food" segment unceremoniously begins.