Diet Explains Black Americans' High Stroke Risk

By Jancin, Bruce | Clinical Psychiatry News, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Diet Explains Black Americans' High Stroke Risk


Jancin, Bruce, Clinical Psychiatry News


AT THE INTERNATIONAL STROKE CONFERENCE

HONOLULU--Nearly two-thirds of the racial disparity in stroke risk is explainable by African Americans' greater adherence to a dietary pattern high in fat, salt, and sugar, according to a major national study.

Investigators in the REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study named this dietary pattern the "Southern diet" because that's where its following is greatest. It is one of five broad U.S. dietary patterns identified in the study, which involved detailed assessment of 30,239 black and white participants aged 45 years and older.

The Southern diet stood out in terms of increased stroke risk. It features heavy consumption of fried foods, including fried vegetables, as well as organ meats, processed meats, full-fat milk, and sugar-sweetened drinks, while downplaying fruits, salads, and whole grains.

The Southern diet is far more popular among blacks than whites, including blacks living in the "stroke belt" in the Southeast. Enthusiasm for the dietary pattern, however, is by no means limited to the South: Among the top-10 states with the greatest adherence to the Southern diet are Delaware, Illinois, and Michigan, Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., noted at the conference, which was sponsored by the American Heart Association.

African Americans are at sharply higher risk of stroke than are their same-age white counterparts. Mathematical modeling of the REGARDS data showed that the Southern diet explains 63% of the excess stroke risk among black Americans under age 65 years.

"That's something we're very excited to know because it's something we could intervene in and make changes to reduce this racial disparity in stroke," observed Dr. Judd, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

People who ate Southern diet--type foods six times per week had a 41% higher stroke risk than did those who ate such foods once a month. In a multivariate analysis that adjusted for age, race, gender, location, socioeconomic and educational status, total energy intake, smoking, and sedentary behavior, adherence to the Southern diet was independently associated with stroke risk in a dose-response fashion. …

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