For most people – non-vegetarians, that is – grilling delicious burgers, hot dogs, chicken and other meats outside is synonymous with summer. But those at risk for high blood pressure may want to note a new study which links regular consumption of grilled meat to long-term blood pressure increases.
The research, conducted by a team at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, looked at more than 100,000 participants in three different long-term studies who ate at least two servings of beef, poultry, or fish each week. They analyzed detailed information provided by the participants about how they cooked their meats, including their frequency of outdoor grilling, and compared those cooking methods with the later development of high blood pressure. None of the participants had high blood pressure when they enrolled, but more than 37,000 of them developed the condition during an average follow-up period of 12-16 years.
The analysis found that, for the participants who regularly ate meat, the risk of developing high blood pressure was:
• 17 percent higher in those who grilled, broiled, or roasted beef, chicken and/or fish more than 15 times per month, compared with less than four times a month;
• 15 percent higher in those who preferred their meats well-done, compared with those who preferred rarer meats;
• 17 percent higher in those estimated to have consumed the highest levels of heterocyclic aromatic amines [HAAs] – chemicals formed when meat protein is charred or exposed to high temperatures – compared to those with the lowest HAA intake.
“The chemicals produced by cooking meats at high temperatures induce oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance in animal studies, and these pathways may also lead to an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure,” said Gang Liu, Ph.D., lead author of the study.
Liu added, however, that this study identifies a trend but does not definitively prove cause and effect. “Our findings suggest that it may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure if you don’t eat these foods cooked well done and avoid the use of open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking methods, including grilling/barbequing and broiling,” he said.
The research was presented in March at the American Heart Association’s 2018 Epidemiology and Prevention – Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions.