Grandma's home cooking could be causing an array of health issues, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on October 2. 

Researchers created a sample group of 6,897 people who did not have high blood pressure in 2003–2007 and kept track of their eating habits for nine years.

Out of the nearly 6,900 participants, 1,807 African American men and women were featured in the group. What researchers discovered was that 46 percent of Black participants and 33 percent of whites were found to have high blood pressure by the end of the nine years, according to Reuters.  

The study points the finger at traditional Southern foods like fried chicken and sweets like pecan pies. For Black men, high blood pressure was attributed to Southern foods nearly half the amount compared to white men. 

Soul food, also known as Southern comforts, was the main factor in the racial divide among heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure.

"We were absolutely surprised by how important this factor was," George Howard, lead researcher of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said.

Black women were a different case. U.S. News reports the Southern diet was responsible for 29 percent of the racial disparity. Other factors such as income, education, stress due to racism and access to more healthy food options contribute to the racial gap. 

Cordialis Msora-Kasago, who is a dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests there are healthy alternatives to these tasty foods. With exercise and a change in diet, people don't have to abandon soul food altogether.

"Diet is something you can change," Howard pointed out. "This is not all because of underlying genetics or other factors you can't change."

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