Eating well-done beef, chicken or fish can raise your blood-pressure risk by at least 17 percent. That's according to a new study by researchers from Harvard University in the U.S. They found that grilling meat triggers the release of dangerous chemicals that inflame the arteries and increase the risk of hypertension.
In a period of 12 to 16 years, the team analysed more than 10,000 people in three long-term studies, focusing on food, cooking methods and blood pressure.
At the start, none of the people in the various surveys had high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. However, by the 12-year follow-up, 37,123 people had developed hypertension and upon closer observation, researchers spotted a clear link between higher hypertension risk and the cooking method, rather than foods alone.
The risk was 17 percent higher if the respondents ate grilled or roasted beef, chicken or fish more than 15 times a month, compared with those who indulged in grilled meals fewer than four times a month.
The risk of hypertension was 15 percent higher in those who preferred their food well-done, compared with those who preferred rarer servings of their meat.
"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," said lead author Dr Gang Liu in a statement.
Liu explained that oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance affect the inner linings of blood vessels and this can lead to atherosclerosis, which paves the way to heart disease and the narrowing of arteries.
Speaking as a nutritionist, my caution would be not to cook foods to death... Don't grill it to death, and if you do happen to get charring, you might consider cutting off those burnt spots as much as possible.
"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 and broiling," Dr Liu said.
This does not mean you should always order a medium-rare steak ,as the study could not provide a direct cause-and-effect, advised American Heart Association spokesperson and nutritionist Dr Linda van Horn.
"Speaking as a nutritionist, my caution would be not to cook foods to death. I think where we have problems is when people take a good thing too far, and that is certainly true for almost everything in the world of nutrition. In this case, certainly this doesn't say eat steak tartare and sushi the rest of your life, but rather more on the side of moderation – don't grill it to death, and if you do happen to get charring, you might consider cutting off those burnt spots as much as possible," Van Horn told Reuters Health.
Liu also warned the findings are limited because the study omitted certain types of meats, including pork and lamb, and certain cooking methods like stewing and stir-frying, which are very popular.