Eating out might pose more health risks than you thought. A new study by Professor Tazeen Jafar of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS) is the first to show a link between eating out and hypertension, or high blood pressure, in young adults. The study was published in the American Journal of Hypertension in March.
Prof Jafar and her team, which included Year 4 Duke-NUS student Dominique Seow, surveyed 501 university-going young adults aged 18 to 40 years in Singapore. Using statistical analysis, they found that 27.4 per cent of those surveyed had prehypertension and 38 per cent ate more than 12 meals per week away from home. Of the group, 49 per cent of men were found to have prehypertension, compared to just nine per cent of women. Those with prehypertension were more likely to eat out often and tended to be smokers; have a higher body mass index; and lower physical activity levels, highlighting the effects of lifestyle factors on blood pressure levels.
It is worthwhile to note that eating even a single meal out increases the odds of prehypertension by six per cent.
Past studies have shown that young adults with prehypertension are at high risk of developing hypertension; the leading cause of death associated with cardiovascular disease. It is thought that the high salt, saturated fat and calorie content in food eaten outside is responsible for elevated blood pressure levels in young adults.
The study serves as a reminder on the importance of making better meal choices and calls for greater attention on the part of clinicians and policymakers. It also addresses the lack of information on the Southeast Asian population as previous studies have largely been conducted in US and Japan. "It highlights lifestyle factors associated with prehypertension and hypertension that are potentially modifiable, and would be applicable to young adults globally, especially those of Asian descent, said Prof Jafaar.
The team plans to lead a related intervention study with strategies aimed at preventing hypertension among young adults in Singapore. Some of these strategies would include motivating young adults to adopt a healthy lifestyle as well as making healthy meals and opportunities for physical activity more easily accessible, added Prof Jafar.