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Cancer Risks from Eating Grilled Meats

photo of beef steaks on the grill with flamesAs of late, research suggests that grilled meats or chicken could be linked to cancer. The issue is said to be connected to carcinogens, which are cancer-causing elements that may form due to grilling methods. The grilling process induces a high temperature that causes the sugars, creatine and amino acids in the meats to react by producing heterocyclic amines (HCAs). As well, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are from the flames that are made when the fat from the meat drips onto the grill. The process of smoking of meats can also form PAHs.

Conferring to WebMD, cooking poultry, beef, pork and fish over an open flame such as grilling is known to cause compounds to form. These compounds are identified as PAHs and HCAs which form on the surface of well-done meat. Research shows that PAHs and HCAs can cause changes in DNA which may increase the chances of getting cancer. However, the studies were done on animals and in very high doses of PAH and HCA.

Although there have not been enough studies done to prove that grilling meat can cause cancer, there are precautions you can take to reduce your exposure to PAHs and HCAs.

  • The Flames – Make sure the flames have died down before you place the meat on the grill.
  • Use Lower Temperatures – Grill your meat at lower temperatures to reduce PAHs and HCAs.
  • Use Certain Herbs and Spices – rosemary is said to reduce the HCA in the end product by over 90%. Onions, garlic, honey and tart cherries are also believed to lower HCA formation on grilled meats.
  • Meat Preparation – Make sure to check food preparation methods for lowering carcinogens in well done meats.
  • The Proper Charcoal – Selecting the right charcoal is important. Some charcoal has more intense heat and flames. Coconut shell charcoal is said to produce fewer PAHs and HCAs compared to wood charcoal.
  • Marinating Meat – Research shows that marinating meat for at least 20 minutes before grilling can reduce HCA formation up to 96%.
  • Raise the Grill Rack – By raising the grill rack you reduce the amount of flames. Instead, the meat is grilled longer at a lower heat.
  • Turn the Meat Often – Frequently turn the meat over on the grill. This lowers the degree of carcinogens that can possibly form on the meat.
  • Use Gas for Grilling – Gas is recommended for grilling instead of a charcoal grill. Charcoal encourages the use of lighter fluid which causes flair-ups.
  • Lean Meat – Select lower cuts of meat and trim away all visible fat. This prevents the fat from dripping unto the grill and creating intense flame and heat.
  • Reduce Intense Flames – Lower the risk of flare-ups by placing aluminum foil on the grill. Also, puncture small holes in the foil to allow grease and fat to escape.

Grilling Meats and the Risk of Cancer

Overall, if you take precautions then the chances of getting cancer from grilled meats is pretty slim. However, if you suspect that you have cancer or you have concerns about your digestive tract, contact a specialist as soon as possible.

At GI North, gastroenterologists Dr. Simon Cofrancesco and Dr. Sergio Quijano have a combination of experience that is unmatched. Together they offer years of expertise in many specialties such as diagnosis and treatment of digestive issues and certain cancers.

GI North has a highly skilled and professional staff that is dedicated to providing exceptional personal care and service. What’s more, Dr. Sergio Quijano speaks fluent Spanish.

Contact GI North in Cumming or any of the surrounding areas in Johns Creek, Roswell, Dawsonville, Duluth, Dahlonega, Suwanee, Canton, Milton and Alpharetta.

Note: This article is not intended to replace professional medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about stomach issues or cancer, make an appointment at GI North with Dr. Simon Cofrancesco, Dr. Sergio Quijano or an M.D. in your area.

© 2017 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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