That tasty serving of grilled beef, chicken or fish may come with another unwelcome health concern. The new study urges caution when cooking, after finding that a regular intake of grilled and well-done meat or fish could increase the risk of high blood pressure.

Researchers suggest that how we cook our meat may influence our hypertension risk.


Before you spring clean that grill, you might want to review your love of burgers, hot dogs and other high-heat goodness.

Regular consuming meat cooked through high-temperature methods such as grilling, broiling or roasting could raise your risk for high blood pressure, according to preliminary research presented to the American Heart Association.

The study was led by Gang Liu, Ph.D., of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA.

Generally high blood pressure, or hypertension, will occur when the force of blood that pushes against the wall of the arteries becomes too high. This can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.

Since updated blood pressure guidelines came into play in the United States last year, it is now estimated that almost half of adults across the country have hypertension.

According to medical science an unhealthful diet is the major risk factor for hypertension.The new study, however, suggests that it's not just the type of food that we eat that influences blood pressure; how we prepare our food can also play apart.

The past studies have documented the much potential harm of consuming meats cooked at high temperatures. Last year one study reported that a high intake of grilled, smoked or barbecued meats to a 23 percent greater risk of death for breast cancer survivors. Study has also associated foods cooked at high temperatures with a greater risk of heart disease.

For this latest study, Liu and colleagues sought to determine whether the cooking temperature or doneness of meat and fish — that is, how well they are cooked through — might influence blood pressure.

Cooking methods is linked to blood pressure

For their findings, the researchers analyzed the data of 32,925 women who were apart of the Nurses' Health Study, 53,852 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study II, and 17,104 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

And for each study, information was collected on how much meat and fish the subjects consumed each month, as well as how these foods were cooked and their levels of doneness.

At the beginning, none of the participants had high blood pressure, diabetes,cardiovascular disease, or cancer. Over an average follow-up period of 12–16 years,a total of 37,123 participants developed hypertension.

Researchers found that subjects who ate grilled,broiled, or roasted beef, chicken, or fish at least 15 times each month were 17percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who consumed these foods fewer than four times per month.

Among participants who reported preferring their meat well-done, the risk of hypertension was increased by 15 percent, compared with those who preferred their meat rarer.

Higher levels of HAAs were linked to high blood pressure

The study team also estimated the levels of hetero-cyclic aromatic amines (HAAs)consumed by each subject. HAAs are potentially harmful compounds that are produced when meats are cooked at high temperatures.


Regular consuming meat cooked through high-temperature methods such as grilling, broiling or roasting could raise your risk for high blood pressure.


The research reveals that participants who consumed higher levels of HAAs were at 17 percent greater risk of high blood pressure,compared with those who consumed lower levels of the compounds.

Notably,the study revealed that the links between hypertension, cooking method and temperature of cooking, and doneness of meat were independent of the type of foods that subjects consumed and how much they ate.

Still it’s not clear why that’s happening, but some studies suggest cooking meat at high-temperatures could lead certain chemicals to form, inducing oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance in animals, and possibly leading to an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure, Liu said.

And it also not clear whether this the same mechanism involved in the link between grilled meats and cancer, he added.There's no conclusive evidence that grilled meats can cause cancer in humans.But processed meat, such as bacon or hot dogs, does cause cancer, and red meat probably does, too, a World Health Organization group announced in 2015.


While this research cannot prove cause and effect, the team says that to lower blood pressure, it might be worth revising our cooking methods for meat and fish.

"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/barbecuing and broiling." Gang Liu, Ph.D.

These findings are a good reminder that moderation is key, especially if you're a barbecue enthusiast, experts said.

“The people who had the highest risk were grilling 15 times a month — that’s every other day,” said Dr. Haitham Ahmed,director of cardiac rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic.

“For the average American, though, I think if you're grilling a few times a week, that should be OK as long as you're being cognizant of the rest of your diet and you're avoiding the really, really high temperatures for prolonged periods of time.”

This one study is not definitive, but it’s “eyeopening” and “very provocative,” added Dr. Seth Martin, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Bottom line

• If you love grilling, fine, but maybe just limit that to two or three times a week, Ahmed said.

• You don't have to char your food when you're grilling it: Consider turning it more frequently. As long as the temperature comes up and the meat is adequately cooked, you can stop there. If it’s charred, consider cutting those parts off so you don't consume any harmful chemicals.

• Limit your red meat consumption: Excess red meat intake causes or may contribute to high blood pressure, particularly because of all the sodium that comes with it.


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