Following USDA dietary guidelines may be hazardous to your health

Getting fried

The idea of turning to the government (ANY government!) for official guidelines on nutrition is pretty ludicrous.

Maybe the government gets an A+ when it comes to traffic light maintenance (not in Baltimore, mind you). But when federal bureaucrats give their advice on what foods I should eat, they usually end up with a C- or worse.

In this case, it’s a big, red F.

By now, you’ve probably seen the new MyPlate graphic the USDA recently introduced as the focal point of the agency’s dietary recommendations. It’s colorful and it lists the five food groups. Perfect for hanging in elementary school cafeterias.

But if you go to and then go looking, for instance, for information about fish, you’ll find several items listed, including — no kidding –- fried fish. Fried! And if you chose any of the fried selections, you won’t find any information warning you that it’s a really bad food choice.

Hidden message

As I’ve mentioned before, frequent eating of fried fish increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Ironically, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish would reduce your risk of both of those often-fatal events, but frying destroys the beneficial omega-3s.

And that’s just the beginning of this three-part dietary disaster.

Part One: Advanced glycation end products –- also known as AGEs.

AGEs are formed when foods are cooked at very high temperatures (as with deep frying). These toxins actually change the structure of enzymes and other proteins in your body. Over time, tissue and organ damage can occur, particularly in diabetics.

Oils that create the most toxins when heated to high temperatures include canola, corn, soya, sunflower, and other vegetable oils.

Part Two: Trans fatty acids.

Many restaurants use partially hydrogenated oils for deep frying. These oils deliver generous amounts of trans fatty acids. And as we’ve seen in several studies, cardiovascular risks increase when even small amounts of TFAs are eaten daily.

Part Three: Acrylamide.

Acrylamide is a carcinogen that’s created when foods are cooked at high temperatures. The highest levels of acrylamide occur in carbohydrates, which would include the breading that’s often used to coat fish before frying.

The highest levels of acrylamide occur in potato products. And just about anywhere you find a piece of deep-fried fish, you’ll almost always find a heap of French fries filling the rest of the plate.

Now, the USDA doesn’t go so far as to recommend eating fried fish. But people who use the new MyPlate website will find so much information about fried fish that it’s easy to assume it’s just fine to eat it as often as you like, as long as you stay within a 2,000-calories-per-day range.

After all, it’s fish!

“Diet: Fried Fish Is Seen as a ‘Stroke Belt’ Culprit” Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, 1/3/11,

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