It’s rich and delicious, that Southern diet: plenty of fried food, cheesy casseroles, and sweet, sweet tea.

But it’s deadly, especially to African Americans. The fat, sugar and sodium that make Southern food so tempting also sends blood pressure up to killer levels.

A study out Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows the main reason African Americans die younger than whites is heart disease. It finds heart disease, mostly caused by high blood pressure, accounts for fully one-third of the disparity.

And the main factor raising blood pressure? A Southern-style diet.

George Howard of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and colleagues studied just under 7,000 people who had been taking part in a larger, long-term study of diet and lifestyle. The volunteers got their first medical exams for the study between 2003 and 2007, and were examined again an average of nine years later.

Howard’s team compared blacks to whites in the study. They checked weight, blood pressure, cholesterol; asked questions about drinking alcohol, about income and about exercise habits; and checked for symptoms of stress and depression. They asked what type of foods people ate, also.

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