While previous studies had warned about the possible link between eating meat grilled at high temperatures and the risk of cancer, new research suggests that this popular staple of backyard barbecues might have more health risks than once thought. Based on the findings of this recently published study, eating grilled meat, may it be red or white, could increase the risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
In a study whose results were released at an American Heart Association meeting and published on the organization’s website on Wednesday, researchers detailed how they had followed more than 100,000 individuals across three previous studies, with more than 80 percent of them being female. All of these participants had normal blood pressure when the study started, but 37,123 of them were found to have high blood pressure when they were followed up on about 12 to 16 years later.
According to Fortune, the researchers hinted at a link between grilled meat consumption and hypertension by pointing out that the risk of high blood pressure was 17 percent higher for participants who consumed two weekly servings of grilled, broiled, or roasted meat. Similarly, those who had preferred to eat their meat well done were 15 percent more likely to suffer from high blood pressure.
“Our findings imply that avoiding the use of open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking methods may help reduce hypertension risk among individuals who consume red meat, chicken or fish regularly,” said Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health research fellow Gang Liu, lead author on the study, in an interview with Today.
Further explaining the results of the study, Liu stated that it isn’t clear why grilled meats and hypertension were shown to be linked, but there has been some research suggesting that cooking meat at high temperatures could result in the formation of chemical agents that stimulate insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress in animals. The American Heart Association news release explained that these issues affect blood vessels’ inner linings and are connected to atherosclerosis, a process that narrows the arteries and is mentioned as an underlying cause of heart disease.
Likewise, Liu told Today that it’s still not clear whether the chemical agents supposedly formed when meats are grilled are similar to the ones that previous studies have associated with cancer.
The researchers, however, stressed that their study “identifies a trend” where grilled meats and hypertension are associated, but does not prove any form of causality. They also noted that their analysis had some limitations, since certain types of meat, including pork and lamb, were not included in the questionnaires given to the study participants. Moreover, the participants were mostly Caucasians in the health industry, and specific methods of cooking, including stewing and stir-frying, were not taken into account.