Eating grilled or well-done beef, chicken or fish is now associated with an elevated risk of high blood pressure risks, new studies show.
Dr. Gang Liu of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston said to Reuters, “Although some studies have suggested that higher intake of red meat, especially processed red meat, is associated with higher risk of hypertension, the associations of chicken or fish intake with hypertension risk remain inconsistent,” he explained. “These previous studies did not take into account one important factor – different meat cooking methods.”
Dr. Liu presented the new findings at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans in March.
He and his colleagues analyzed cooking methods and the development of hypertension in adults who regularly ate beef, poultry or fish and were participating in three long-term studies: 32,925 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, 53,852 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II, and 17,104 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.
In each study, detailed cooking information was collected. None of the participants had hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer at the start, but 37,123 people developed hypertension during an average follow-up of 12 to 16 years.
The researchers found that “a higher frequency of open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking and a preference for higher meat (temperature) level were both independently associated with an increased hypertension risk.”
Among adults who ate two or more servings of red meat, chicken or fish a week, the likelihood of developing high blood pressure risks was 17 percent higher in those who grilled, broiled, or roasted the meat or fish more than 15 times per month, compared with fewer than four times per month.
The risk of hypertension was 15 percent higher in those who preferred their food well done, compared with those who preferred rarer meats.
“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,” Dr. Liu said.
The study wasn’t designed to prove that eating meat and fish cooked a certain way causes hypertension.
Some tips on how to reduce high blood pressure risks in grilled fare:
- Don’t grill it too long that will create charring
- Consider cutting off burnt spots on charred meats as much as possible
- Use an instant-read thermometer (Thermoworks MK4) to cook meats to the prescribed safe temperature