Hold on to that fried chicken and sweet tea, y'all. A new study suggests these meals may be linked to kidney disease.

Researchers found that a Southern-style diet was associated with a 50 percent greater risk of death. This could be because kidney patients have a damaged ability to filter harmful fats, sugars and minerals in a Southern diet.

This is the first study to show how a regional diet seems to be damaging to people.

"People who have kidney disease have a harder time getting rid of a lot of the substances in these types of food that are bad for you," said Orlando Gutierrez, lead author of the study.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, also showed that a diet high in fruits and vegetables appears to reduce the risk of death by a quarter in kidney patients.

The researchers took data from almost 4,000 people and analyzed what they ate.

"It's well known that the Southern region has poor health outcomes in a number of different areas including stroke, heart disease and sepsis, and that their style of diet plays a role," Gutierrez said.

The researchers looked at the foods people eat, rather than a salt or fat intake.

They found that foods typically found in Southern diets - fried foods, organ meat and sweetened beverages - had a 50 percent higher risk of death in the six year follow up, though these findings also generalize to sweet tea and soda.

This diet could also be why the South has another nickname, the "Stroke belt" according to Thomas Manley, director of scientific activities for the National Kidney Foundation.

"The vast majority of death from kidney disease is related to heart disease," Manley said. "If you develop kidney disease, you're much more likely to die from heart disease - heart attacks, heart failure, stroke - than someone who doesn't have kidney disease."

Some good news is people who have kidney disease but who switched to a plant-based diet seem to have a higher survival rate. However, it did not protect patients from kidney failure.

The study only looked at an association between a Southern diet and higher risk of death, there is still no proof that the dietary factors cause the higher risk of death.

Manley does hope though that this will help doctors counsel their patients on good eating habits rather than telling them more abstract things, such as the need to limit sodium. 

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