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Barbecue Meat Chemicals:Grilling and Cancer

Posted on May 31, 2005, 3:12 p.m. in Nutrition

Barbecue Meat Chemicals:Grilling and Cancer. National Institute of Health Adds Grilling Meat Chemicals to Cancer Hit List.

Chemicals Created When Grilling, Cooking Certain Meats at High Temperatures, Put on Cancer Hit List. How can something that tastes so good be so bad? In January, 2005 ,The National Institute of Health, Dept. of Health and Human Services officially added heterocyclic amines, chemicals created during the grilling of meat to it's hit list of cancer causing agents. See the NIH HHS news release with the cheery title "List of Cancer-Causing Agents Grows". "The Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition, referred to as the RoC, lists cancer-causing agents in two categories known to be human carcinogens and reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. The report now contains 58 known and 188 reasonably anticipated listings. Federal law requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to publish the report every two years."

Chemicals Formed During Grilling Frying and Barbecuing Heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are chemicals that are formed during the grilling and frying and barbecuing of certain so called "muscle meats" such as beef, pork, poultry and fish . Muscles have a lot of protein and the building blocks of proteins are called amino acids. When amino acids are exposed to the cooking processes of grilling, barbecuing and frying, heterocyclic amines also called amino-imidazoazaarenes (AIAs) are created.

According to the NIH artice, "Research has shown that cooking certain meats at high temperatures creates chemicals that are not present in uncooked meats. A few of these chemicals may increase cancer risk. For example, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are the carcinogenic chemicals formed from the cooking of muscle meats such as beef, pork, fowl, and fish. HCAs form when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and creatine (a chemical found in muscles) react at high cooking temperatures."

 

Four Factors in Production of Carcinogenic Heterocyclic AminesThe NIH article goes on to say that "MeIQ, MeIQx, and PhIP are heterocyclic amine compounds formed when meats and eggs are cooked or grilled at high temperatures. These compounds are also found in cigarette smoke. They are listed in the report as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens because oral studies in animals showed they caused cancer in multiple organs including the forestomach, colon, liver, oral cavity, mammary gland, skin, and cecum. Several human studies suggest there is an increased risk for breast and colorectal cancers related to consumption of broiled or fried foods that may contain these or other similar compounds....MeIQ is 2-Amino-3, 4-dimethylimidazo [4,5-f]quinoline,
MeIQx is 2-Amino-3, 8-dimethylimidazo [4,5-f]quinoxaline, PhIP is 2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b]pyridine........ Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocabons are substances that enter meat through smoke that's created when fat drips onto hot coals or stones. The hetrocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are known to be mutagenic, .i.e. they produce changes in DNA. According to this article from the National Cancer Institute National Cancer Institute Heterocyclic Amines in Cooked Meats "research has shown that cooking certain meats at high temperatures creates chemicals that are not present in uncooked meats. A few of these chemicals may increase cancer risk". The article goes on to say that "four factors influence HCA formation" :

  • type of food
  • cooking method
  • temperature
  • time

Looking for Ways to Cook Meats Poultry and Fish to Produce Less MutagensHere are some tips about Meat Quality and Safety from Purdue University.This is an excellent article from a few years ago called New Recipes for Making Seriously Browned Meats Less of a Cancer Risk.

Lawrence Livermore and Others Write About Grilling and DNA Altering ChemicalsRead some suggestions for cooking meat so as to lower the amount of mutagenic and carcinogenic compounds from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and here is an article called Cancer Proof Your Barbecue.

See as well Harmful Chemicals in Grilled Meats and Foreman Knocks Out Barbecue Health Hazards and also FAQ about Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

Cherries in Meat To Decrease Mutagenic Compounds?Cherry Hamburgers on the GrillFor something completely different here's a story about researchers at Michigan State University who said that adding cherries to meat lessened the production of the mutagenic compounds, the heterocyclic polyaromatic hydrocarbons Cherry Hamburgers on the Grill.

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