Monday, June 27, 2011

Is Grilling Killing?

As we ready again for celebrating several summer holidays many of us will be participating in one of the all time favorite "rituals" of cooking , the traditional Barbeque and cookout. Most of us have bitten into a nice char-grilled  juicey burger or steak  deliciously oozing with barbecue sauce. As we "savor the flavor" of the spicey sweet "Q"  sauce , the majority will not be thinking of the amount of time we leave the meat on the grill and it's cumulative  affects of the  "blackened" material or the soot and smoke that lingers in the air from the fat burning off the juice. Most of us are laughing and joking and having too  much fun  rather than take a few minutes to turn the meat over timely or slow cook it  by giving it enough time to simmer. One or two of us will forget the drip pan collecting the grease run-off that is seaming with  potential toxins in it.
Most of us have heard that over-cooking or "blackened" food creates toxins that are carcinogens that can cause colon cancer by the release of free oxygen radicals,free radicals, and oxidation- perioxidation occuring from overcooking meats.But recent studies by the National Cancer Institute has found  out that the fat that is  cooked off from grilling  meats creates  a carcinogen called Poly-aromatic Hydrocarbons(PAHs) . They've also discovered that the protein in red meat and white meats such as chicken , fish and sea foods can be morphed by the excessive heat. The changes in the protein causes chemicals called Heterocyclic Amines(HAs) which also can cause cancer.

The NCI has found a relationship with both breast and colon cancer as well as  prostate and stomach cancer among other types of cancers  caused  due to over heating foods. Grilling, barbecuing,  and pan searing are also related to creating these chemicals from  super heated foods.

Grilled foods can be avoided from becoming your  own worst enemy by pre-cooking foods  to cut down on the time you grill it. Use lemon or other types of fruit marinades or olive oil  to cook in with the meat. Use more fruits or vegetables on the "barby" with the meats as a kebob . Have a drip pan to reduce the soot that flies back in your face with harmful PAHs. Cut up the meat into smaller pieces to cut down on the time  of cooking as well as cutting off the excess fat of the meat. Do not let your meat become blackened. Cook on top of tin foil if you don't have a drip pan. Always clean your grill after use and before firing it up again. Alternative methods of  cooking such as poaching, roasting, baking, pan stewing and boiling helps reduce production of HCAs and PAHs. Some studies have shown that CLA(conjugated linoleic Acid)  can inhibit cancer caused by PAHs. The exact amount of CLA is still to be determined exactly.

Don't forget that heavily smoked foods, overly salted foods particularly pickeled with Nitrates which have been associated with stomach cancer. Pickled foods are particularly fond of in in the Asian countries like Japan.

But, always remember it is the time limit of cooking, the temperature of cooking, the method you utilize to cook at as well as the types of meats you use that are seemingly related to  the chances of acquiring cancer.

Now , go back to your grilling and have a happy  and healthy holidays.

Dr. Marcus Wells, MD, MPH is the author of the books "Fit Family" and "Nano-Nutrition" that both discuss the affects whole foods/organic(macronutrients) and the bio-fuels micronutrients can supply for a healthy balanced lifestyle. Learn more at and

No comments:

Post a Comment