Study Links Cooking Methods and Health

The researchers found some cooking methods corresponded with beneficial effects on inflammation. Heating edible oils, but not olive oil, to high temperatures had negative effects.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 26, 2022 15:27 UTC

New research pub­lished in Nature Scientific Reports has iden­ti­fied some of the impacts of dif­fer­ent cook­ing meth­ods on meta­bolic health and inflam­ma­tion.

The team of Spanish researchers stud­ied how eat­ing food raw com­pared with boil­ing, roast­ing, pan-fry­ing, fry­ing, toast­ing, sautéing and stew­ing food affects renal func­tion, inflam­ma­tion or alters other rel­e­vant bio­mark­ers.

Investigating how food prepa­ra­tion influ­ences its nutri­tional value has become an increas­ingly com­mon field of study as con­sumers become more aware of what and how they eat.

See Also:Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Classical nutri­tional epi­demi­ol­ogy has focused on an approach based on indi­vid­ual foods, exam­in­ing the role of cer­tain foods or food groups on health,” Montserrat Rodríguez-Ayala and Pilar Guallar-Castillón, researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid and co-authors of the study, told Olive Oil Times.

However, cook­ing meth­ods have hardly been explored using pop­u­la­tion data,” they added. Cooking meth­ods have mostly been addressed when study­ing their effects on physic­o­chem­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of foods or bioavail­abil­ity of nutri­ents.”

The cross-sec­tional study con­ducted on almost 2,500 Spanish res­i­dents over 65 years of age showed trends, such as bet­ter health out­comes from eat­ing larger quan­ti­ties of raw or pan-fried food.

The researchers also stressed the dis­ad­van­tages of cook­ing with veg­etable oils – though notably not olive oil – at high tem­per­a­tures.

In their study, researchers found that four dif­fer­ent cook­ing meth­ods – raw, boil­ing, pan-fry­ing and toast­ing – cor­re­sponded with ben­e­fi­cial effects on sev­eral inflam­ma­tory mark­ers, as well as improved kid­ney func­tion, thy­roid hor­mone bal­ances and vit­a­min D lev­els.

None of the cook­ing meth­ods, includ­ing fry­ing food, showed sig­nif­i­cant detri­men­tal asso­ci­a­tions for the inflam­ma­tory and meta­bolic bio­mark­ers the researchers assessed.

Our study is a first approach to the effect of cook­ing meth­ods on health,” Rodríguez-Ayala and Guallar-Castillón said. Therefore, with the cur­rently avail­able infor­ma­tion, rec­om­men­da­tions to avoid cer­tain cook­ing meth­ods can­not be made. However, cook­ing meth­ods that do not include adding oils heated to high tem­per­a­tures are safe and can poten­tially be asso­ci­ated with health ben­e­fits.”

Many dietary guide­lines sug­gest that raw and boiled foods pro­vide more health ben­e­fits than fried foods, the con­sump­tion of which should be lim­ited.

Our results agree with this rec­om­men­da­tion for the con­sump­tion of raw and boiled foods,” Rodríguez-Ayala and Guallar-Castillón said. However, in our pop­u­la­tion, no harm­ful effect of fried food con­sump­tion was observed, pos­si­bly because olive oil is the main source of fat for fry­ing in Spain.”

Olive oil is con­sid­ered very sta­ble when heated at high tem­per­a­tures and is also rich in antiox­i­dants and flavonoids,” they added. Other added oils or fats have not shown these prop­er­ties. Therefore, the results could vary in pop­u­la­tions using other oils or fats for cook­ing.”

In Spain, olive oil con­sump­tion might exert a pos­i­tive influ­ence on health, which could influ­ence to some degree the effect on the health­i­ness of dif­fer­ent cook­ing meth­ods,” the researchers con­tin­ued. The role of olive oil as a cook­ing fat could be very impor­tant, but it has not yet been quan­ti­fied.”

Additionally, Rodríguez-Ayala and Guallar-Castillón noted that the study, com­prised of 53 per­cent female vol­un­teers and an aver­age age of 71, was not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Spanish pop­u­la­tion.

They sug­gested peo­ple in this demo­graphic might eat health­ier food com­pared to younger gen­er­a­tions, which could sug­gest dif­fer­ent results even when cook­ing meth­ods are con­sid­ered.


So far, no sim­i­lar study has been con­ducted in younger pop­u­la­tions, and it is to be expected that the results could vary to some degree,” Rodríguez-Ayala and Guallar-Castillón said. Diet qual­ity is lower among younger peo­ple because adher­ence to the Mediterranean dietary pat­tern has decreased among younger peo­ple and also because the con­sump­tion of ultra-processed foods has increased.”

Therefore, we start from a more dis­ad­van­taged meta­bolic sit­u­a­tion,” they added. However, we believe that the gen­eral rule of avoid­ing cook­ing meth­ods with added oils at high tem­per­a­tures would also be ben­e­fi­cial for younger peo­ple.”

The same researchers were also involved in a sep­a­rate study that found olive oil con­sump­tion to be asso­ci­ated with lower risks of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and stroke. The higher the qual­ity of the olive oil, the bet­ter the out­come.

Our research group has shown that olive oil con­sump­tion did not increase coro­nary risk nor the risk of stroke, despite being an energy-rich food,” Rodríguez-Ayala and Guallar-Castillón said. Recently, we have also shown that vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion was asso­ci­ated with less ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis in carotid arter­ies and femoral arter­ies as well as a decrease in coro­nary cal­cium.”

The researchers added that fur­ther lon­gi­tu­di­nal and long-term stud­ies must be done to expand the cur­rent knowl­edge about cook­ing meth­ods and estab­lish more robust asso­ci­a­tions.

They explained that those meth­ods should be explored for the role they can play in dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions, such as non-Mediterranean, and dif­fer­ent age groups.

Our results are a first step in the process of estab­lish­ing the role of cook­ing meth­ods on health,” Rodríguez-Ayala and Guallar-Castillón said. However, more basic and pop­u­la­tion-based research is needed before estab­lish­ing final con­clu­sions.”

Undoubtedly, know­ing what cook­ing meth­ods could be included as healthy eat­ing habits is an essen­tial part of the pre­ven­tion and man­age­ment of chronic con­di­tions that are related to diet,” they con­cluded. A new field of dietary pre­ven­tion has been opened up.”

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