According to a new study performed by researchers of the University of Alabama, the Southern US diet exposes people to increased risk of heart disease. The findings provides more scientific proofs, which may also convince people devoted to the delicious yet unhealthy diet to convert to a healthier way of life.

The study gathered data from over 17,000 African-American and Caucasian healthy participants, over the age of 45. People participating in the study had never suffered from a heart medical condition. The researchers asked the participants to fill out food frequency questionnaires and have some physical exams. The team kept in contact with the participants over the next six years in order to assess whether any had developed heart disease.

The analysis of the eating habits has shown five distinct patterns. Among the five eating patterns, the Southern pattern is characterized by food choices such as sugary drinks, added fats, fatty foods, fried foods, processed meats, eggs and organ meats. According to the study, people adepts of a Southern diet.

The lead researcher James Shikany, of the University of Alabama, declared that he recommends that people with an overall pattern of eating matching closely the Southern diet should change their eating habits to reduce their risks of developing a heart condition.

According to statistics provided by the American Heart Association, in the United States around 735,000 people have heart attacks each year and about 120,000 die as a result. In order to prevent heart disease and heart attacks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular exercise, keeping away from smoking and maintaining a healthy diet and weight.

According to an interview of Shikany for Reuters Health, previous studies focused in particular on individual foods that may be tied to an increased risk of heart disease. However, the study conducted by his team was looking "at overall diet as opposed to a specific nutrient or a specific food."