Grilled meat could be raising the risk of hypertension finds study

Studies have shown that grilled meat including beef, poultry, fish etc. is usually cooked at high temperatures. This charring can produce cancer causing chemicals. In a new study researchers have found that consuming meat (both white and red) cooked over open flames or at high temperatures can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure. These results were revealed this week at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

Image Credit: ivan jimenez foto / Shutterstock
Image Credit: ivan jimenez foto / Shutterstock

Gang Liu, the study’s lead author and a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains that open flame or high temperature cooking including grilling, roasting should be avoided by people and this would reduce the risk of development of hypertension. Well done or charred meat too should be avoided he added.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is usually a blood pressure of over 140/90 mm of Hg. It may not produce any major symptoms as such but may contribute to heart disease and heart attacks and strokes. Hypertension thus is also called the “silent killer”. Almost half of the Americans are diagnosed with hypertension. People with hypertension are advised a diet containing low sodium or salt and adequate fibres from whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

For this study the team of researchers looked at 32,925 women who were participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and 53,852 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II and 17,104 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. These women and men were not diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or cancer when they were first enrolled in the studies. They were followed up for the next 10 to 12 years. During this time, 37,123 of the participants were diagnosed with high blood pressure.

The team then correlated the diets of all the participants with the development of hypertension and found that among people who were having at least two servings of red meat, fish or chicken per week, those who are broiled, roasted or grilled meat had a 17 percent greater risk of getting hypertension. The high risk individuals were using these cooking techniques over 15 times per month compared to the others who used these techniques of cooking less than four times a month. The risk of getting high blood pressure was 15 percent more in persons who liked their meat well done compared to those who like rarer meat preparations.

The researchers add that the exact cause for this is not clearly known. However as seen from earlier studies, cooking meat on open flames and at higher temperatures can produce chemicals to form. These chemicals are associated with oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, insulin resistance etc. Each of these can contribute to development of high blood pressure explained Liu. Connection with cancer has also been established with processed meats.

According to experts, there is no reason to give up grilled or roasted meats but moderation remains the key. This study may not be a definitive one but serves as a warning say experts to be vigilant about the harm this kind of food may cause. They suggest avoiding charring while grilling meat. In general red meats and food containing high amounts of salt is best avoided by those with heart disease and high blood pressure.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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