How you grill your meat may play a big part on your health in the long run. If you use a charcoal or wood-burning barbeque grill, and you constantly grill your meat at high temperatures, you run the risk of your meat forming two kinds of potentially carcinogenic compounds: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These carcinogens can cause changes in the DNA, leading to an increased chance for cancer, however they are capable of damaging DNA only after they are metabolized by specific enzymes in the body.
This activity differs amongst individuals, so the cancer risk after exposure to these substances also varies based on your genetics. Regularly consuming well-done, or charred, meat may increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 60 percent, while also increasing the risk of developing other serious health problems.
How Are They Formed?
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, or poultry, is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame. “High temperatures” would refer to those over 200°C, with the damage peaking at about 300°C.
In laboratory experiments, HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic, meaning that they have the potential to change the DNA, which increase the risk of developing cancer. HCAs are formed when amino acids, sugars, and creatine (a substance found in muscle) react at high temperatures. PAHs are formed when fat and juices from the meat grilled directly over an open fire drip onto the fire, causing flames. These flames contain PAHs that then adhere to the surface of the meat. The PAHs can also be formed during other food preparation methods, like smoking. HCA’s are not found in raw foods, and not in significant amounts in any meat cooked at lower temperatures with moist heat (like with steaming or boiling).
Although the results vary, studies from around the world have continued to suggest that a high consumption of meat is also linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, among other health defects. Several studies have looked at the diet and followed tens of thousands of participants, collectively reaching the understanding that those who consumed the most red meat, were most likely to develop colon cancer.
In another study; stool specimens from the 21 volunteers who consumed a high-red meat diet were analysed, and found to contain high levels of N-nitroso compounds (NOCs). These compounds are potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Interestingly, those who ate vegetarian food were found to have lower levels of NOCs in their specimens. Also, the cells that were collected from the lining of the colon from the people who had been eating the high-meat diet contained a large number of cells that had NOC-induced DNA changes. Conversely, the stools of vegetarians had the lowest number of cells with damaged genetic material. Although there is not enough evidence to conclude that eating red meat will definitively lead to the onset of colon cancer, the evidence suggests that you’d be wise to limit your consumption.
Try to choose leaner meats in your diet, also trim the fat well before grilling because when fat and juices drip from meat: flames flare up and create more smoke, which leads to carcinogen formation. Also, if you flip the meat frequently it can help to reduce HCAs by 75 to 95 percent, according to Nutrition Action Healthletter.
If you do char your meat, trim the fat away before eating it. Adding spices when you are cooking may also help to cut down the cancer-causing HCAs. Certain spices that contain natural antioxidants were found to help reduce HCA levels by 40 percent when applied to beef patties during cooking. Spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander seeds, galangal, fingerroot, and rosemary are also considered to aid in reducing your chances of cancer.
Researchers from Portugal and Spain recently found that marinating your pork chops in dark beer helps to dramatically reduce the carcinogenic contamination. The researchers tested the effect of marinating meat with a variety of beer: Pilsner, nonalcohol Pilsner, and black beer, against a control sampling of raw meat. The sample with black beer showed the strongest “inhibitory effect,” reducing the formation of carcinogenic PAHs by 53 percent. This could possibly be due to the high amounts of antioxidant compounds which are found especially in the darker variety. The Pilsner beer and nonalcoholic Pilsner, showed less significant results: 13 percent and 25 percent respectively.
Another important benefit of beer (real beer: not just watered down ethanol) is the probiotic yeast, which can help improve your health and recovery from meaning illnesses ranging from diarrhea to autism.