If you regularly eat fried fish your risk of developing stroke is likely to be higher compared to people who don’t, researchers from Emory University, Atlanta wrote in the journal Neurology. Fried fish is frequently consumed in the “Stroke Belt” of the USA, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Although omega-3 fatty acids protect from stroke and are found in abundance in most types of fish we eat, frying destroys those natural fatty acids, the scientists inform.

African-Americans, especially, often eat fried fish in the stroke belt states – much more than Caucasians and other ethnic groups.

Author Fadi Nahab, of Emory University, Atlanta, and also a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said:

    “These differences in fish consumption may be one of the potential reasons for the racial and geographic differences in stroke incidence and mortality.”

Nahab and team gathered and analyzed data on 21,675 individuals who had taken part in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. Their average age was 65 years. Approximately one fifth of the participants lived in the “stroke buckle”, which includes the coastal plain region of North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia. The incidence of stroke in the stroke buckle is even higher than in the stroke belt. Another 34% of the participants were from other parts of the stroke belt, while 44% were from the rest of the American mainland.

Each participant was given a telephone interview and then physically examined in their home. The investigators also asked them about how often they ate shellfish, tuna, oysters, fried and non-fried fish.

Less than 1 in every 4 participants was found to consume at least two servings of non-fried fish each week. We should eat fish twice a week or more, especially fatty fish, according to the American Heart Association.

The authors found that people living in the stroke buckle had an 11% lower chance of eating fatty fish at least twice a week, compared to the rest of the USA, while those in the rest of the stroke belt were 17% less likely.

Overall, African-Americans eat 0.96 servings of fried fish each week, while Caucasians eat 0.47 servings.

The researchers also found that:

  • Stroke belt residents had a 30% higher chance of consuming at least two servings of fried fish each week, compared to people elsewhere in the USA.
  • People living in the stroke buckle had a 17% higher chance of eating at least two servings of fried fish each week.
  • Stroke belt residents ate an overall average of 1.45 servings of non-fried fish each week, compared to 1.52 in the stroke buckle and 1.63 in the other US states.

“Racial and geographic differences in fish consumption – The REGARDS Study”
F. Nahab, MD, A. Le, S. Judd, M.R. Frankel, J. Ard, MD, P.K. Newby, ScD, MPH, MS and V.J. Howard, PhD
Neurology December 22, 2010 DOI 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182061afb

Written by Christian Nordqvist