It’s not just the meat you eat that impacts your risk of developing high blood pressure—but how you cook it, according to research presented March 21 at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health scientific sessions in New Orleans.
Individuals who prefer meat grilled or well-done have a higher risk of hypertension compared to those who use lower-temperature cooking methods or prefer rarer meats, lead researcher Gang Liu, PhD, and colleagues reported.
“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,” Liu, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a press release.
Liu et al. analyzed cooking methods among more than 85,000 women and 17,000 men enrolled in health studies of medical professionals. None of the participants had hypertension, diabetes or heart disease when they enrolled in the studies, but 37,123 became hypertensive over the average follow-up of 12 to 16 years.
Among participants who reported eating at least two servings of red meat, chicken or fish per week, the following increases in developing high blood pressure were noted:
· 17 percent for those who grilled, broiled or roasted meat more than 15 times per month, compared with fewer than four times a month.
· 15 percent for people who preferred their meat well-done versus rarer.
· 17 percent for individuals estimated to have consumed the most heterocyclic aromatic amines—chemicals formed from charring at high cooking temperatures—compared to those with the lowest intake.
These risk increases were found to be independent of the type and amount of food consumed; they were attributed solely to the cooking method and temperature, as well as the doneness of the meat.
“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,” Liu said.
Limitations of the study include that it relied on questionnaire responses and didn’t include all types of meat or other cooking methods, such as stir-frying or stewing. In addition, most of the participants were white health professionals, so the findings may not apply equally to other groups.