—Sweets: Added fats, breads, chocolate, desserts, sweet breakfast foods.
—Alcohol: Beer, wine, liquor, green leafy vegetables, salad dressings, nuts and seeds, coffee.
“They’re not mutually exclusive” — for example, hamburgers fall into both convenience and Southern diets, Judd said. Each person got a score for each diet, depending on how many meals leaned that way.
Over more than five years of follow-up, nearly 500 strokes occurred. Researchers saw clear patterns with the Southern and plant-based diets; the other three didn’t seem to affect stroke risk.
There were 138 strokes among the 4,977 who ate the most Southern food, compared to 109 strokes among the 5,156 people eating the least of it.
There were 122 strokes among the 5,076 who ate the most plant-based meals, compared to 135 strokes among the 5,056 people who seldom ate that way.
The trends held up after researchers took into account other factors such as age, income, smoking, education, exercise and total calories consumed.
Fried foods tend to be eaten with lots of salt, which raises blood pressure — a known stroke risk factor, Judd said. And sweet drinks can contribute to diabetes, the disease that celebrity chef Paula Deen — the queen of Southern cuisine — revealed she had a year ago.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, drugmaker Amgen Inc. and General Mills Inc. funded the study.
“This study does strongly suggest that food does have an influence and people should be trying to avoid these kinds of fatty foods and high sugar content,” said an independent expert, Dr. Brian Silver, a Brown University neurologist and stroke center director at Rhode Island Hospital.
“I don’t mean to sound like an ogre. I know when I’m in New Orleans I certainly enjoy the food there. But you don’t have to make a regular habit of eating all this stuff.”