A study of college students links eating in restaurants with high blood pressure, even in young people.

Globally, high blood pressure - hypertension - is the leading risk factor for death associated with cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that young adults with slightly elevated blood pressure are at very high risk of hypertension. Eating meals away from home has been shown to be associated with higher caloric intake, higher saturated fat intake and higher salt intake, which are thought to cause high blood pressure.

Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore Professor Tazeen Jafar designed and supervised a study to find behaviours associated with hypertension in a young adult population in Southeast Asia.  The team surveyed 501 university-going young adults aged 18 to 40 years in Singapore. Data on blood pressure, body mass index and lifestyle, including meals eaten away from home and physical activity levels, were collected. Their association with hypertension was then determined. 

Using statistical analysis, the team found that pre-hypertension was found in 27.4% of the total population, and 38% ate more than 12 meals away from home per week; while the gender breakdown showed that pre-hypertension was more prevalent in men (49%) than in women (9%). Those who had pre-hypertension or hypertension were more likely to eat more meals away from home per week, have a higher mean body mass index, have lower mean physical activity levels, and be current smokers.

 Even eating one extra meal out, raised the odds of prehypertension by 6%. 

Published in the American Journal of Hypertension. Funding came from the Singapore Ministry of Health.