There is a very good reason why the southeastern United States bears the dubious distinction of being the stroke capital of the nation-the consumption of chicken, particularly fried chicken. If you live in these states composing the ‘Stroke Belt’-Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia-you are 20% more likely to suffer a stroke at some point in your life.

Nutritional epidemiologists at the University of Ala­bama examined the dietary habits of 20,000 white and Afri­can-Americans in these stroke prone states, an assessment that included electrocardiogram and blood pressure tests. These scientists reported in 2013, that stroke incidence was directly proportional to how much Southern-style foods they ate.

Their findings were reported at an American Stroke Associ­ation meeting, where they noted how eating this Southern diet rich in fried chicken meat, along with chicken internal organs, gizzards and livers, made African-Americans 63% more likely to have a stroke than their white neighbors. Though fried fish and potatoes were also included in the dietary survey, it was fried chicken that stood out for the frequency of consump­tion, and its high fat, sodium, and cholesterol content, raising the risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

The more a person eats these fatty ‘southern’ foods that are high in cholesterol, the more likely they are to suffer a stroke. Those who ate these meals six times a week, for instance, were 41 % more likely to experience a stroke. Since 130,000 Amer­icans lose their lives each year due to strokes, public health officials would be well advised to warn consumers about the health implications of these ‘southern’ diets, which have become part of the regional identity these southeastern states extol as a ‘virtue’ in their tourist advertising campaigns.

This ‘southern’ diet has also been linked to a 50% greater death rate for people with kidney disease, because kidney patients are impaired in their ability to filter the fats present in fried chicken and other aspects of typical southern cooking. That is according to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, which tracked 4,000 people diagnosed with chronic kidney disease over a six year period.

Why Your Heart Hates Fast Food Chicken

It used to be that fried chicken, before the advent of fast food franchises like KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), was pri­marily prepared and eaten at home. In the 21st century, con­sumption of fried chicken occurs primarily at KFC, Church’s, Popeye’s, and other fast food chains that specialize in serving chicken. One of the more popular KFC offerings is a bucket of chicken, which can contain up to 10 pieces. Given that one piece of thigh meat has 25 grams of fat, and the average person might eat four or more, that means 100 grams of fat is being absorbed. If someone eats KFC’s Popcorn Chicken, they consume 80 grams of fat and 1,300 calories, according to calculations done by the Live Science website. “7 Foods Your Heart Will Hate.”

Live Science observed:

“Deep-frying in general is a prime method to induce a heart attack. The oil used at fast-food restaurants and by street vendors tends to be cheap and become more and more saturated (and heart-stopping) with each re-using. Deep frying with certain shortenings produces trans-fats, which raise levels of bad cholesterol.”

When the website called The Health Wyze Report gave KFC its ‘Worst Restaurant of the Year’ award, it noted how KFC “really has no shame about what they put inside their foods. Do you think the top execu­tives of KFC actu­ally eat the foods that they produce? I am sure that the number is comparable to the number of doctors willing to take chemotherapy for their own cancer treatments.”

Of the 29 ingredients KFC uses to produce its fried chicken, this website found 26 of them qualify as toxic because they are chemically enhanced. The only non-toxic ingredients found were onion powder, sodium bicarbonate, and garlic powder. The canola oil, genetically engineered from rapeseed plants, used to fry the chicken “breaks down into multiple carcino­genic poisons lacking any nutritional value, and the fumes from it are toxic too.” Furthermore, “KFC chicken is the most detrimental food that you can consume without dying imme­diately,” adding that servers at KFC chain outlets should be required to read from a script with each order: Would you like cancer, mental disorders, or cardiac arrest with that, Sir?

When Men’s Health magazine assembled its “10 Worst Fast Food Meals,” chicken dishes dominated the list. For exam­ple, the Domino’s Chicken Carbonara Bread bowl Pasta con­tained 1,480 calories, 56 grams of fat, and 2,220 milligrams of sodium. KFC Half Spicy Crispy Chicken Meal contained 1,660 calories, 104 grams of fat, and 5,050 milligrams of sodium. Dairy Queen Chicken Strip Basket had 1,640 calo­ries, 74 grams of fat, and 3,690 milligrams of sodium.

As scientist with the Center for Science in the Public Inter­est commented, KFC and other chains specializing in fried chicken are “making their customer’s arteries extra crispy.”

Article by Brian Clement, PhD, LN



“Southern diet could raise your risk of stroke.” American Stroke Associ­ ation Meeting Report-Abstract 144. Feb. 7, 2013.

 “Southern fried diet may cause kidney damage.” CBS News. Aug. 14, 2014

“The Worst Restaurant of the Year Award Goes to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).” The Health Wyze Report. 13 4-the-worst-res taurant-o f-the-year-award-goes-to-kentucky -fried-chicken-kfc

Men’s Health, Aug. 3, 2010.



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