French fries. Fried chicken. Fried Calamari. Buffalo wings. Doughnuts. Deep fried Oreos. Funnel cakes. It’s the stuff of childhood memories, comfort foods enjoyed at family gatherings, and something you just “have to try” at state fairs. But as much as fried foods sound delicious, and may be tasty, they are known to cause health problems- and it doesn’t take much.
Fried foods are known risk factors for obesity, high blood pressure and other health concerns. Inflammation, as well as the fact that most fried foods contain trans fats, which are associated with an increased risk of many health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity, are why fried foods should be limited. If you factor in that many fried foods are often cooked in processed vegetable or seed oils, which may contain trans fats before heating. And, once the oils are heated to high temperatures, such as during frying, their trans fat content can increase.
A recent study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that the harm goes beyond the risk of heart attacks, clogged arteries, and stroke. According to a study published by a team in Hangzhou, China, frequent consumption of fried foods, especially fried potatoes, was linked with a 12% higher risk of anxiety and 7% higher risk of depression than in people who didn’t eat fried foods. The link was more pronounced among younger study participants, particularly young men.
Another interesting detail is the potential harm of fried potatoes- found in this study to have a pronounced effect on the anxiety and depression of the study participants. Fried potatoes are a source of higher concentrations of acrylamide, which is a toxic substance that can form in foods during high temperature cooking such as frying. It is formed by a chemical reaction between sugars and an amino acid called asparagine. Data is mixed on whether there truly is a risk to human health from acrylamide- but it is mentioning that some studies did find a modest increased risk of kidney, endometrial, and ovarian cancers.
This new information adds to the already well-established information about the danger of fried foods. One study published online Jan. 18, 2021, by the journal Heart, pooled the findings of 17 studies on fried foods and problems like heart attacks, clogged coronary arteries, heart failure, and stroke. The studies included more than half a million people. Researchers also looked at the data from another six studies assessing the association of eating fried food and dying prematurely. Those studies involved more than 750,000 people. People who ate the most fried foods each week were 28% more likely to have heart problems, compared with people who ate the least.
A great alternative to frying is to bake foods or use an air fryer. Air fryers use less oil and the devices work by circulating heat to cook the foods, giving them that crispy finish.
The long and short of this most recent study is: limit your consumption of fried foods to protect your physical and mental health.