Cooking on a coal or wood fire increases heart disease risk

Regular cooking with coal, wood, or charcoal increases risk of dying from heart disease by up to 12%

Barbeque heart risk: Regular cooking with coal, wood, or charcoal increases a person’s risk of dying from heart disease by up to 12%

  • Burning solid fuels increases the likelihood of heart attack or stroke
  • The risk of heart diseases rises by 3% for every decade spent cooking on coals 
  • But it is possible to bring the risk back down by switching to gas or electricity

Cooking on coal, wood or charcoal could make you more likely to die of heart disease.

A study has revealed people who use solid fuels for cooking may have a 12 per cent higher risk of dying of a heart attack, heart failure or stroke. 

And this risk increases by three per cent for every ten years someone spends cooking regularly on an open fire.

The research adds to recent claims that barbequing meat releases poisonous chemicals linked to skin, lung and bladder cancers.

And although solid wooden fuels are less common in Western countries, cooking on hot coals just once a week could be enough to damage health, the study suggests.

But the effect appears to be reversible if people use gas or electric cookers – experts said everybody should switch ‘as soon as possible’.

Regularly cooking your food on burning wood, coal or charcoal increases the risk of dying prematurely because of heart attack, heart failure or stroke, Oxford scientists say 

Scientists from the University of Oxford carried out the study on people in China, where more than half used solid fuels to cook at some stage in their lives. 

They found the longer someone has used wood, coal or charcoal for cooking at home, the more likely they are to die prematurely because of heart disease.

The risk rises by 3 per cent every 10 years, and people who cook on the burning fuels for 30 years or more have a 12 per cent higher risk of dying early. 

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But switching to electricity or gas can bring the chance of dying of heart disease back under control.

‘People should switch to electricity or gas as soon as possible’ 

‘Our study suggests that people who use solid fuels for cooking should switch to electricity or gas as soon as possible,’ said Dr Derrick Bennett, one of the study’s authors.


Just standing near a barbecue grill could raise your cancer risks, a study suggested in May.

Surprisingly, it is not so much breathing smoke from the grill, but eating grilled foods and absorbing carcinogens through the skin that pose dangers.  

Steaks are typically cooked at somewhere between 300 and 400 degrees on the grill, and the process can lead to the release of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

These compounds have been found to cause genetic mutations that can lead to lung, bladder and skin cancer. 

PAHs are eaten when they stick to foods and are also burned when fat drips onto hot coals, meaning they may be absorbed by the skin when the smoke wafts over it.  

The researchers stopped short of explaining why the risk of heart disease death increases, but past studies have suggested barbeques and fire pits produce deadly chemicals in their smoke and when they cook meat at high temperatures. 

The Oxford researchers’ huge study, of 341,730 people aged between 30 and 79, lasted for 13 years and measured people’s exposure to the burning fuels and tracked all their deaths.

Everybody involved in the research – three quarters of whom were women – cooked on solid fuel at least once a week.

Risk drops by 5% every 10 years after stopping burning fuel 

Some 8,304 of the people in the study died of heart disease and, once smoking, education and other risk factors were accounted for, scientists examined the link between cooking fuel and heart disease.

They found for every decade after switching to gas or electricity the cardiovascular death risk dropped by five per cent.

People who had switched 10 or more years ago saw their risk sink back to level with people who had always used ‘clean’ energy.

Professor Zhengming Chen added: ‘Switching to electricity or gas weakened the impact of previous solid fuel use, suggesting that the negative association may be reversible.’

The research was revealed at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2018 in Munich. 

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