There may be a connection between high blood pressure and meals eaten away from home, a recent study suggests.

Scientists from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore have discovered that eating out has been linked with a higher saturated fat intake, but also with a higher caloric intake and higher salt intake. These patterns are usually associated with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the leading risk factors for death caused by cardiovascular disease and illnesses worldwide. Previous research have discovered that young adults with a condition called pre-hypertension, a slightly elevated blood pressure, could be moving into hypertension very quickly if they eat away from home regularly.

For the research, scientists observed 501 university-going young adults from Singapore, with ages from 18 to 40 years old. Information on blood pressure, lifestyle and body mass index, but also data about meals eaten away from home and physical activities, were also collected. After analyzing the results, the researchers established a link between eating out and high blood pressure.

With the help of statistical analysis, the scientists discovered that pre-hypertension was present in 27.4 percent of the total focus group, and that 38 percent consumed more than 12 meals away from home every week. After performing a gender breakdown, the team revealed that pre-hypertension was affecting 49 percent of men, a much larger amount than in women, which stood at just 9 percent. Those who suffered from pre-hypertension or hypertension were eating more meals away from home per week, but also had a higher mean body mass index, while showing lower physical activity levels. Most of them were also current smokers.

The team of researchers from Singapore found that even eating one extra meal out increased the odds of pre-hypertension by around 6 percent.

“While there have been studies conducted in the United States and Japan to find behaviors associated with hypertension, very few have surveyed a Southeast Asian population. Our research plugs that gap and highlights lifestyle factors associated with pre-hypertension and hypertension that are potentially modifiable, and would be applicable to young adults globally, especially those of Asian descent,” said Tazeen Jafar, who authored the study, in a statement.

The report was published in the American Journal of Hypertension. Its detailed findings can be very helpful in the quest to change behavior trough clinical and policy recommendations.

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