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Your Healthy Family: Can grilled meat put you at risk for high blood pressure?

Posted at 2:31 PM, May 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-12 13:57:18-04

For many of us, Memorial Day weekend means it’s time to fire up the grill.

But according to one recent study, eating grilled meats frequently might mean putting ourselves at an increased risk for high blood pressure.

The study looked at more than 100,000 people, all healthy and free of heart disease, over a 12-16 year period.

Participants took dietary surveys and recorded what they ate. At the end of the study, about a third of the participants developed high blood pressure.

Haitham Ahmed, M.D., medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and preventive cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, did not take part in the research, but said the way we grill our meat could make a difference.

“The researchers saw that, if you were grilling, cooking or broiling meat to a very high temperature, and doing so frequently, your risk of high blood pressure, over that time period, was significantly increased," he said.

Researchers found that those who were grilling as much as 15 times per month were at highest risk.

Dr. Ahmed noted that previous research has shown when meat is cooked at very high temperatures, to the point where it’s charred, harmful chemicals can form.

“We know that when you cook the meat to very high temperatures, particularly when you char it, there are these harmful chemicals that form on it called heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA’s),” he said. “We also know that when the juices of the meat drip down onto the flame, it causes these additional chemicals, called polycyclic hyrdro-carbons, that stick onto the meat. These are bad for the arteries, they induce oxidative stress, they cause inflammation, and they’ve also been shown to be carcinogenic.”

Dr. Ahmed recommends limiting meat intake to no more than three times per week.

“If you’re going to be cooking or grilling your meat, maybe don’t char all of it, or at least cut off the charred portions,” he said. “You can also consider cooking it on a lower temperature, for a little bit longer, or flipping it more frequently.”

Dr. Ahmed said that overall, eating grilled meat is okay, as long as we’re only having it in moderation.

Results of the study were presented at an American Heart Association meeting.