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BBQ and Grill - scientists say it can increase the risk of cancer by half

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What is healthy cooked meat

The health risks resulting from the cooking and consumption of charcoal grilled meat, poultry and fish have been acknowledged for several years. There is a lack of compelling evidence directly linking the act of charcoal grilling to cancer, as the exposure would need to be significant and of long duration. That being said, the risk obviously varies with both behaviour and general health, as some families do frequently cook food in this way, and an individual’s susceptibility to cancer is very variable. A more major concern, is that the chemicals produced within the food that is charcoal grilled have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. One large study of over 3,000 participants discovered that postmenopausal women who consume large quantities of grilled meat had a 47% increased risk of breast cancer.[1]

BBQ smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of over a hundred different chemicals found in the smoke emitted from the charcoal grilling of meat.[2] As a BBQ heats from below, the fat drips onto the coals and burns, creating smoke that is high in PAHs, which can cause lung damage and have been linked to lung and bladder cancer.[3] PAHs have the ability to damage cellular DNA, converting a normal cell to a cancerous one, and are therefore classified as carcinogens.[4]

In addition to PAHs, flame-grilled meat also produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs).[5] HCAs are also classified as carcinogenic compounds, which are produced when amino acids (present in protein), and creatine (present in muscle) react at temperatures over 300͒ F (approx. 150͒ C).[6]This reaction commonly occurs during BBQing, where temperatures immediately above the flame can reach 500-1000͒ F (approx. 260-540͒ C). Research has revealed an association between HCAs and increased risk of prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancers in adults.[7] [8] [9]  

BBQing food can also cause the formation of nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic compounds produced by the reaction of nitrogen oxides and amines or amides contained in food.[10] These cancer-causing compounds are particularly concerning, as foods that are traditionally cooked on a BBQ are also those that are highest in amines (found in protein); meat and fish.

BBQ cooking often includes meat, which is high in both protein and fat.  At high temperatures, a further chemical reaction occurs, producing toxins called advanced glycation end products (AGEs),[11]which are responsible for causing much of the damage caused by diabetes.[12] These toxins are linked to the imbalance of pro- and anti-oxidants, which can lead to significant inflammation within the body. This increased inflammation and oxidative stress can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.[11] [13]

Given the harmful chemicals that charcoal grilling of meat produces, it may therefore prove sensible to not only limit the consumption of BBQed meat, but to also choose cuts and cooking methods that require minimal BBQing time, as the shorter the meat is grilled for, less harmful toxins are produced, reducing the risks to health.

 

[1] Steck, SE. et al. (2007) Cooked meat and risk of breast cancer- lifetime versus recent dietary intake. Epidemiology. 18(3). 373-82.

 

[2]European Commission. (2002) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - occurrence in foods, dietary exposure and health effects. Retrieved April 2016 from, http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/scf/out154_en.pdf

 

[3]Mastrangelo, G. et al. (1996) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cancer in man. Environ Health Perspect. 104(11). 1166-70.

 

[4]Mordukhovich I. et al. (2016)  Polymorphisms in DNA repair genes, traffic-related polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure and breast cancer incidence. Int J Cancer. 139(2). 310-21.

 

[5]  Knize, MG. et al. (2002) Factors affecting human heterocyclic amine intake and the metabolism of PhIP. Mutat Res. 506-507. 153-62.

 

[6] National Cancer Institute. (2016) Chemicals in meat cooked at high temperatures and cancer risk. Retrieved April 2016 from, http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet

 

[7]Anderson, KE. et al. (2002) Meat intake and cooking techniques: associations with pancreatic cancer. Mutat Res. 506-507. 225-31.

 

[8]Tang, D. et al. (2007) Grilled meat consumption and PhIP-DNA adducts in prostate carcinogenesis. Cancer Epedemiol Biomarkers Prev. 16(4). 803-8.

 

[9]Cross, AJ. et al. (2010) A large prospective study of meat consumption and colorectal cancer risk: an investigation of potential mechanisms underlying this association. Cancer Res. 70(6). 2406-14.

 

[10] Douglass, ML. et al. (1978) The chemistry of nitrosamine formation inhibition and destruction. J Soc Cosmet Chem. 29. 581-606.

 

[11]Uribarri, J. et al. (2010) Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet.  J Am Diet Assoc. 110(6). 911-16.

 

[12] Zhao, J. et al. (2014) Molecular mechanisms of AGE/RAGE-mediated fibrosis in the diabetic heart. World J Diabetes. 5(6). 860-7.

 

[13] Jones, DP. (2006) Redefining oxidative stress. Antioxid Redox Signal. 8(9-10). 1865-79.

 

 

 

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As always, everything that we love, especially tasty food, turns out to be carcinogen.

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Another bad thing is that during BBQ all these carcinogens are released to air and everyone breathes it, even if you don't eat BBQ food, you inhale those hazardous substances during cooking. Be careful, especially when it comes to your children.

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It's definitely a valuable review! Anything I read before was either simple for understanding but without scientific justification, or scientifically sound but too complicated for understanding. I'm trying to promote healthy lifestyle in my family and BBQ is the favorite meal of my parents, they completely deny the fact that it is dangerous. Hope this article will change their attitude. 

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On 11.04.2017 at 8:42 AM, stefany96 said:

It's definitely a valuable review! Anything I read before was either simple for understanding but without scientific justification, or scientifically sound but too complicated for understanding. I'm trying to promote healthy lifestyle in my family and BBQ is the favorite meal of my parents, they completely deny the fact that it is dangerous. Hope this article will change their attitude. 

Let your parents eat what they like. They are another generation, in their time people weren't bothered with such things, tasty meant healthy for them (unless you have digestive problems, of course :) ). They ate BBQ all their life and now you want them to change it, do you really think it will help? Bear in mind that BBQ effects are long term effects, it means that your parrents have already been affected by it. Sorry, if I said something sad to you, but it's true.

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Hm... I was reading the article and one thought jumped to my mind. Generally talking, BBQ is a cooking method used from the very beginning of human civilization. Primitive people cooked meat on fire and charcoal, and as I understand the same human toxic exposure procesess were taking place. The question is, did primitive people suffer from cancer too? If yes, why didn't mankind develop immunity to cancer, there was plenty of time to develop it. 

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