Fried Food Won’t Kill You—Maybe

Sunday's Big Game, that magical day when the partnership between televised sporting events and excessive caloric intake finds its purest expression, is nearly upon us. Fast-food chains, pizza joints, and restaurants that do takeout are already girding their loins, as is Doritos, which is set to unleash an advertising campaign of such magnitude it will probably turn your TV screen orange.

The National Restaurant Association has decided to celebrate the occasion by releasing a survey estimating that 48 million Americans will order takeout on game day. What they will order pretty much conforms to bears-shit-in-the-woods expectations, to wit: 61 percent will want pizza, 49 percent will be sucking down subs and sandwiches, and 50 percent will scale the glycemic index with dessert. Also, untold millions will eat a dip of some sort.

The survey's only surprising finding is that 42 percent of viewers plan to eat something "healthful," though whether that means scarfing mung beans and kale during halftime or just ordering extra green peppers on a meat lover's pizza isn't specified. But there is good news for those who want to feel slightly less guilty about eating a pound and a half of wings over the course of four hours. According to a new study in the BMJ, eating fried food doesn't necessarily doom you to heart disease or an early grave.

Researchers for the study, which was conducted by the Autonomous University of Madrid, spent 11 years monitoring the health of 41,000 people between the ages of 29 and 69. Participants were divided into groups based on how much fried food they ate, with those in the lowest consumption group taking in about 1.6 ounces every day and those in the highest eating 8.8. When the researchers tallied up the number of deaths and "heart-related events" over the years, they found no correlation with their subjects' diets.

The major caveat here is that because the study was conducted in Spain, most of the fried food in question had been fried in olive and sunflower oils and was consumed in the context of the Mediterranean diet, which, as we have been told repeatedly, is healthier and less economy-sized than its American counterpart. And unlike an order of McDonald's fries, it wasn't fast food. None of this, of course, will really matter to the majority of those parked on their couches this Sunday, but it won't be entirely surprising if, some day in the near future, KFC starts advertising a line of artisanal wings fried in olive oil hand-pressed in the bucolic hills looking out onto the Mediterranean.

Image source: Cheesy Potato Tots and Gravy / CHOW.com

Rebecca Flint Marx eats and writes in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter. Follow CHOW, too, and become a fan on Facebook.