The first ever study to show a link between eating meals away from home and high blood pressure has been published in the American Journal of Hypertension. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease-associated death.
In hypertension, the greater the force of blood pushing up against the walls of the blood vessels, the harder the heart has to pump, which can lead to heart failure and heart attack.
People with hypertension are also at increased risk for kidney failure, aneurysm and stroke. About 70 million adults and 2 million children are affected by hypertension.
Previous studies have found that eating meals away from home is associated with a higher intake of calories, saturated fat and salt - eating behaviors believed to be linked to high blood pressure.
To investigate whether eating out could therefore be associated with hypertension, the researchers behind the new study surveyed 501 young adults aged 18-40 who attendeduniversity in Singapore.
The surveys collected information on the students' blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), lifestyle, physical activity levels and how often they eat out.
Statistical analysis of the data showed that 49 percent of the male participants and 9 percent of the female participants had pre-hypertension. It was also found that38 percent of the students ate more than 12 meals away from home per week.
The researchers found that students with hypertension or pre-hypertension were more likely than participants without hypertension or pre-hypertension to eat out more often. They were also found to have a higher BMI, have lower levels of physical activity and be current smokers.
Study author Prof. TazeenJafar, from the Health Services and Systems Program at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, says that the study is the first to show a link between eating out and pre-hypertension and hypertension.
“Our research highlights lifestyle factors associated with pre-hypertension and hypertension that are potentially modifiable, and would be applicable to young adults globally."
Based on the study's results, the authors suggest that clinicians should advise young adults - particularly younger male patients - to modify their eating behaviors and make them more aware of their risk for pre-hypertension.
The findings should also inform policy changes, such as regulating salt and fat in eateries, the researchers say.