Fatty Foods
A woman looks at a creation by Tom Friedman named 'Big Big Mac' during the unveiling of the Arts & Food exhibition at the Triennale, as part of the next Expo 2015, in downtown Milan April 8, 2015. The theme of this year's expo is "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", and it will run from May 1 to October 31, 2015. Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, coronary and heart diseases are the leading killers in Australia. Deaths due to heart problems accounted for one in eight female and one in seven male deaths in 2014. Still, researchers from New Zealand set the Internet on fire with their research suggesting that the Western diet of deep-fried foods and refined sugar may not be that bad for the heart if a Mediterranean diet is followed.

Health experts and dieticians have warned people to be cautious about the suggestions by the research. They believe that the conclusion is “premature” and suggest further research to be absolutely sure.

“On the surface it is an attractive message that greater emphasis should be on encouraging healthy foods rather than avoiding unhealthy foods, but such a conclusion is premature. It is too early without further research to conclude convincingly about the lack of harm of unhealthy foods,” Dr. Nita Forouhi, Programme Leader at University of Cambridge’s MRC Epidemiology Unit, told The Telegraph.

King's College London’s Professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics Professor Tom Sanders is of the opinion that the study did not find any relationship “deep-fried foods, refined carbohydrates and sugar sweetened beverages” and risks are associated.

Even though Senior Dietician at the British Heart Foundation Victoria Taylor approved of the Mediterranean diet, she said that people may get the wrong message.

“The study reinforces existing research we have on the Mediterranean style diet that links it to a range of health benefits including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. But we should be cautious about the suggestion from the study that greater consumption of refined carbohydrates, deep fried foods, sugars and desserts, which are more typical of Western diets, are not associated with an increase in heart attack, stroke or death,” Taylor said.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, involved more than 15,000 people from 39 countries with heart problems and found out that a Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and unrefined foods, is the solution to one’s junk food cravings. The diet reduced the risk of strokes and heart diseases. The study said that Western diet did not increase the risk either.

The researchers said that eating greater portions of healthy foods should be the primary focus than avoiding Western junk foods. However, University of Auckland’s professor Ralph Stewart strictly maintained that the research does not mean people can now start binging on junk foods.

“The study found no evidence of harm from modest consumption of foods such as refined carbohydrates, deep fried foods, sugars and deserts. However, because the assessments were relatively crude, some harm cannot be excluded,” he added.

Most importantly, the findings of the study were consistent across all geographic locations, including Australia. However, the study depended on self-reporting and did not take into account good fats and bad fats and total calorie intake. The observational study did not show cause and effect.