Grilling meat or fish until it is well done could increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, according to new US research.

Carried out by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, the team looked at high blood pressure and diets of 86,507 women and 17,104 men, following them for an average of 12-16 years.

The researchers collected detailed data on participants’ intake of beef, poultry, and fish and the methods they used to cook the foods.

They found that among participants who reported eating beef, chicken, or fish at least twice a week, those who used grilling, broiling, or roasting as their cooking method more than 15 times a month had a 17% higher risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those who used these methods less than four times a month.

In addition, the risk of developing high blood pressure was 15% higher in those who prefer their food well done, compared with those who prefer rarer meats.

Those who were estimated to have consumed the highest levels of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) – the chemicals formed when meat protein is charred or exposed to high temperatures – had a 17% higher risk compared to those with the lowest intake.

“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,” explained Dr Gang Liu, lead author of the study.

In addition, oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance have also been linked to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition which causes the arteries to become narrowed and can lead to heart disease.

The research also comes just days after an Israeli study found that too much red or processed meat, especially when fried or grilled to a level of well done or very well done, could also increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The team pointed out that the findings show a trend rather than a cause and effect, and study limitations include not looking at the effect of other meats or cooking methods.

However, Liu added that, “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.”

The preliminary research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2018, which took place March 20 to 23 in New Orleans, Louisiana. – AFP Relaxnews