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Can Grilling Meat Cause Cancer?

June 19, 2008 | 71,811 views
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grill, barbecueThe American Institute of Cancer Research is urging everyone to rethink the pastime of barbecuing meat.

After analyzing the results of 7,000 studies, the Institute concluded that grilling any meat -- whether red, white or fish -- produces potent carcinogens.

The high heat of grilling reacts with proteins in red meat, poultry and fish, creating heterocyclic amines, which are linked to cancer. Another form of cancer-causing agents, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are created when juices from meats drip and hit the heat source. They then rise in smoke and can stick to the meat.

The Institute took particular aim at processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, pastrami, salami and any meat that has been salted, smoked or cured. The chemicals used to preserve the meat increase the production of cancer-causing compounds, regardless of how the meat is cooked.

The Institute’s report said it “could find no amount of processed meat that is safe to eat.”
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I know the thought of giving up your barbecue grill is about as un-American as you can get, especially right as summer is approaching, but I do believe it is a wise move for your health.
But it’s not just the grill that’s the problem. Any time you cook meat at high temperatures, whether you’re grilling, frying, broiling, etc., some pretty nasty chemicals are created:
  • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): These form when food is cooked at high temperatures, and they’re linked to cancer. In terms of HCA, the worst part of the meat is the blackened section, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and never eat blackened sections.
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, and the smoke surrounds your food, it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures (including when it is pasteurized or sterilized), it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. When you eat the food, it transfers the AGEs into your body. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that so many people are convinced they must cook their foods until they’re browned and “well-done” to avoid bacteria, when in so doing they are creating and consuming highly toxic substances that will shorten their lifespan?

There are many people who are convinced that being a vegetarian is the ultimate healthy lifestyle eating plan. They support their position with loads of scientific studies. But it is my belief that most of these studies are correct because the common way most people consume animal protein is COOKED, or worse yet grilled, creating all the toxic substances discussed above.

To the best of my knowledge there are no studies comparing raw animal-food-based diets versus cooked vegetarian diets, but even if there were they still could be flawed because they most likely would not factor in the person’s nutritional type.

Remember a carb nutritional type eating large amounts of raw animal food will do just as poorly as a protein type on raw vegan diet. You simply need the right food for your specific nutritional type.

Personally, I just moved into a new home that is designed for entertaining large amounts of people and I have yet to install a grill. I am really torn because I fully appreciate the damage grilling does to the food. It is very hard for me to consciously serve that food to guests, so I am still personally debating this.

One variable that makes me consider it is that you simply don’t have to be perfect in your diet. I fully believe you just need to eat very well 80-95% of the time. If you do that your body typically has enough reserve to compensate for the damage you cause. However if you are really sick or have a terminal illness you will want to get as close to 100% as practically possible to improve your chances of recovery.

Do You STILL Want to Over-Cook Your Food?

If so, consider the following, quite sobering, statistics:

1. In one study, researchers found that those who ate their beef medium-well or well-done had more than three times the risk of stomach cancer as those who ate their beef rare or medium-rare.

2. Other studies have shown that an increased risk of developing pancreatic, colorectal, and breast cancer is associated with high intakes of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats.

3. One study found that a compound called PhIP, formed when meat is charred at high temperatures, causes prostate cancer in rats.

4. Scientists have estimated that the average cancer risk because of heterocyclic amine exposure ranges from 1 per 10,000 for the average person to more than 1 per 50 for those ingesting large amounts of well-done muscle meats, especially flame-grilled chicken.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Yet, I realize that asking most Americans to give up hot dogs, hamburgers, barbequed chicken and even grilled fish is almost sacrilegious. So let me try to put it another way.

What is Your Food Doing for You?

Depending on the food, and how it is prepared, it can either nourish your body and vitalize your mind, or it can slowly degenerate your vitality and vigor.

The choice is yours.

And instead of thinking about what you are giving up by avoiding overcooked foods, think about what you are gaining: light energy in the form of biophotons.

You may already be aware of the importance of getting sunlight on your skin. Well, you can absorb sun energy via your food as well, and stored sun energy in food is called 'biophotons,' which are the smallest physical units of light.

The more light a food is able to store, the more nutritious it is. This is why sun-ripened veggies, and even meat products from animals raised outside in the sun, are rich in biophotons.

Biophotons, meanwhile, contain bio-information, which controls complex vital processes in your body. The biophotons have the power to elevate your physical body to a higher oscillation or order, and this is manifested as a feeling of vitality and well-being.

But as soon as you throw those sun-ripened peppers or raw, grass-fed steak onto the grill, you lose these beneficial properties, as cooked foods contain no biophotons.

All Meat is NOT Inherently Bad for You

As usual, those of you who have commented in the Community Comments section below have made some very good points, including the glaring errors in studies like the one above.

If you take it at face value, you are left with the incorrect notion that meat is something you should only eat sparingly, if at all. Yet there are numerous factors that influence the quality or health-value of the meat you eat, even above and beyond how it’s cooked. That includes:
  • Whether or not it’s organic (conventional meat is loaded with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals)
  • Whether or not it’s grass-fed (essential for healthy meat)
  • Whether or not it contains nitrates, preservatives linked to cancer
What it did point out is that processed meats are a big-time no-no, and I have to agree with them there. While you can find natural and organic processed meats, the unprocessed varieties are still preferable.

The other factor that plays a role in how healthy meat is for you?

As I said earlier, your nutritional type. Some of you (including myself) thrive on red meat while others need white meats or mostly other protein sources, like eggs. It all depends on your unique biochemistry.

For Those of You Who Won’t Have Summer Without Your Grill

I suspect this may be a great number of you, so I will include some tips to minimize your risk.

1. Limit the amount of grilled foods you eat, and make sure you’re eating plenty of other raw foods in your diet.

2. You can reduce the amount of PAHs when you grill by not cooking fatty meats, and by trimming the fat off before you grill.

3. When grilling, cook your food with indirect heat, such as on a rack rather than directly on the coals. Cooking on a cedar plank is also helpful.

4. Always avoid charring your meat (and don't eat the black or brown parts).

5. Cook meat partially before putting it on the grill, or cook smaller pieces of meat, which take less time to cook, and therefore give HCAs less time to form.

6. You can reduce the amount of AGEs in your food by using an acidic marinade that contains lemon juice or vinegar.

7. Marinating meats before grilling or broiling them can reduce HCAs (according to some experts by 90 percent or more). However, only use natural ingredients for marinades, and keep the coating thin to avoid charring.

8. Flip your burgers often, as this will help cut down on HCAs.

9. Add blueberries or cherries to your burgers, as they can also help prevent the formation of HCAs.

10. Avoid grilling hot dogs, bratwurst and other processed meats, as these seem to be among the worst offenders.

11. Only grill high-quality, organic and grass-fed meats.

12. Cook the meat as little as possible. Rare or medium-rare at the absolute most. You can also quickly sear the meat on both sides, leaving the inside mostly raw. This gives the illusion that you’re eating cooked meat, with many of the benefits of raw.

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