Fried foods may be finger-licking good, but for those with a predisposed “fat genes,” such foods may be not be a good combo for them because these people are most likely to increase their risk of obesity and associated diseases. A recent study published in “British Medical Journal” shows how the effects of eating fried foods can vary among each person.
Dr. Lu Qi, Ph.D., M.D., lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, stated that the study show that high consumption of fried foods can cause a higher risk of the expression of the fat genes. Likewise, those who have high genetic risk of obesity are more likely to gain more weight than those who have a lower genetic risk.
The study included 9,623 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, 6,379 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and 21,421 women from the Women’s Genome Health Study. Those who ate more fried food frequently each week had a higher body mass index (BMI) than those who ate less, after lifestyle and other dietary intake are taken into account. Among the subjects who are at the top one-third of the sample population for genetic risk of obesity, those who consumed fried foods four times a week are twice as large as those who consumed once a week.
One reason why fried foods increases the risk of weight gain is because water is lost during the frying process, and oil is absorbed into the food, increasing the caloric content.
Nutrition experts and researchers have already known the consequences of consuming fatty, fried foods regularly. A Spanish study of 33,542 adults that was published in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a strong correlation between those who consumed fried foods regularly and weight gain. The study, however, did not factor in genetic disposition to obesity.
Although the joint Harvard study provided proof that there is an interaction between genetic risk and environmental factors, it may not affect current public health advice that everyone should be eating less fried foods, according to Dr. Alexandra Blakemore, Ph.D., and Dr. Jessica Buxton, Ph.D., of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College in London. They did mention that this study may encourage health practitioners to use a more individualistic approach to treat the obese rather than a cookie-cutter method.
The study has its limitations because various factors are unknown and are unaccounted. Food frequency and intake descriptions in the questionnaire may have errors. The questionnaire did not consider whether the subjects ate at home or at a restaurant, the type of oil used to fry, the type of frying, the number of times the oil had been reused, and the temperature of the frying oil. The authors were not able to test the sex differences within each group because the study was not co-ed.
The population sample in the study were all middle-age adults in the United States with European ancestry. Researchers do not know if the results of this study can be applied to other ethnic groups and cultures.
Regardless of whether people have the fat genes or not, fried foods should be consumed less. The next time you cook or order dinner at a restaurant, try other healthier ways of cooking, such as having the food steamed, sauteed, baked, or grilled. Your taste buds and waistline will thank you.
By Nick Ng