6

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BBQ/Grilling cancerous?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 04, 2010 at 2:14 PM

I have been told and I have also read articles saying that grilling meat is cancerous. See how the paleo/primal/atkins/good cal. bad cal. goes totally against conventional wisdom, anyone know if grilling causing cancer is also a myth?

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on June 27, 2012
at 06:07 AM

I'm with melissa, a beautiful rare steak with very well defined charred grill marks...soooo goooood. Love me some char..

Bf21fb723238775fa323ba58cbac802e

(15)

on August 17, 2011
at 12:58 PM

This is all very helpful, thank you.

485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

(2191)

on May 05, 2010
at 02:24 AM

You call it science. I call it garbage. I'll trust common sense over "science."

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 05, 2010
at 12:31 AM

Sometimes science discovers things you don't want to be true.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 05, 2010
at 12:30 AM

People eating zero carb could be more at risk. Fibre, fruit, vegetables and plant antioxidants may reduce some of the harm by binding or neutralising heterocyclic amines in the gut.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 04, 2010
at 03:08 PM

Unfortunately I'm one of the people who loves the taste of char...

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8 Answers

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4
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 04, 2010
at 08:45 PM

The answer is probably yes. The risk and degree to which it does is still uncertain.

This is due to molecules created when meat is cooked at high temperatures called heterocyclic amines. These are well known to be carcinogenic in animals and are readily absorbed by the human body. They are formed by a reaction between the amino acids and creatine in muscle meats that only occurs at high temperatures, over about 150 degrees Celsius.

They are created by grilling, frying or barbequeing. Baking, roasting, stewing, steaming and slowcooking produce much less or none as the meat is not in direct contact with such high temperatures. Marinating meat for several hours before cooking reduces the formation of heterocyclic amines as can adding some herbs and spices to ground meat.

Eggs and non-muscle organ meats like liver do not contain creatine and so do not form heterocylic amines when cooked.

It is difficult to research the effects of heterocyclic amines on human health due to the great variability in exposure. Some epidemiological studies have found increased cancer risk from eating well done steaks compared to people who like their steaks rare. They may also contribute to heart disease. Exactly what risk they pose or what dose is dangerous are still uncertain.

I personally think it unlikely that our hunter-gatherer ancestors cooked by frying or barbecuing as they lacked metal. Baking in fire pits or in the embers of the fire was more likely. I don't think our ancestors would want to let the fat from their meat drip into the fire and be wasted.

Whether you worry about any of this is up to you but i'd stay away from charred meat.

4
Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

on May 04, 2010
at 11:58 PM

I'm sceptical of claims that meat cooked over an open fire is bad for you just on general principles. I'm wondering whether the people doing the studies looked into whether briquettes and lighter fluid or real wood were used. Given that we've been cooking meat over open fires since before we evolved into Homo sap., I'd expect that we're adapted to it pretty well.

I'm tempted to say that it sounds like vegan propaganda.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 05, 2010
at 12:31 AM

Sometimes science discovers things you don't want to be true.

485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

(2191)

on May 05, 2010
at 02:24 AM

You call it science. I call it garbage. I'll trust common sense over "science."

4
C56bdadbc180bfd11b15eea1964825f7

on May 04, 2010
at 02:35 PM

Carcinogens are formed when meat is charred. I like my steak medium rare, and I come from a part of the country where "barbecue" means pork cooked over indirect heat for a long time, so I sleep pretty easy. Burned meat tastes bad, do not eat.

http://health.discovery.com/centers/cancer/top10myths/myth2.html seems to have the conventional wisdom on this covered.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 04, 2010
at 03:08 PM

Unfortunately I'm one of the people who loves the taste of char...

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on June 27, 2012
at 06:07 AM

I'm with melissa, a beautiful rare steak with very well defined charred grill marks...soooo goooood. Love me some char..

2
8347d512bca9b034d53da40dab8cd21c

on May 04, 2010
at 04:25 PM

According to the National Cancer Institute,

"Meats that are partially cooked in the microwave oven before cooking by other methods also have lower levels of HCAs. Studies have shown that microwaving meat prior to cooking helps to decrease mutagens by removing the precursors. Meats that were microwaved for 2 minutes prior to cooking had a 90-percent decrease in HCA content. In addition, if the liquid that forms during microwaving is poured off before further cooking, the final quantity of HCAs is reduced."

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/heterocyclic-amines

I'd never heard that eating grilled food increased your chances of getting cancer. I'm currently looking online to see if it's based upon what you grill with. I haven't seen anything that says "...if you grill with gas versus charcoal, your chances of getting cancer are severely increased." I'd have a hard time swallowing (pun intended) the fact that grilled food is bad for me.

Edit/update: Yes, I did post that quote from what I consider to be a reliable source; however, the whole grilling/HCA content issue isn't much of a concern for me (like many others who responded). I agree completely that we've been grilling all this time, so NOW it's brought up that we might get cancer from the char?

Personally, I try not to char the hell out of what I'm grilling. I'd prefer to just cook it to whatever temp I'm going for, and then eat it. I don't like the carbonized taste of char.

I brought this subject up at work tonight, and one of my co-workers had a good point. She'd heard about this, but was of the belief that the HCA's came from not cleaning the grates of your grill -- hence all the "leftovers" on your grill were getting double- or triple-cooked. That would send the carcinogens up into the food. How true that is, I don't know. I'm not educated enough in carcinogens to speak that thoroughly.

Bf21fb723238775fa323ba58cbac802e

(15)

on August 17, 2011
at 12:58 PM

This is all very helpful, thank you.

2
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 04, 2010
at 03:13 PM

The healthy cooking coach did a few posts on grilling. Pt 1. Pt 2.

I don't know with certainty which method H-Gs favored. I have read that Australian Aborigines cook wallabies by this procedure:

  1. they make a fire in a depression in the earth and fill it with stones and shells, atop of which they place green branches.
  2. throw the carcass right on those branches to singe the hide for 5-10 minutes, after which they remove the fur
  3. gut the animal, then cook the organs right on top of the stones and coals
  4. put the carcass on the hot stones and ashes, fill the carcass with hot stones, cover it with paperbark and sand, and roast You see, they don't just put it on a stick over the fire.

I personally don't grill often. If it's a grilling cut it is probably good enough to eat raw or almost raw, which is what I do.

1
485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

on May 04, 2010
at 09:18 PM

Give me a break. I discount anyone who claims that microwaving food makes it safer. And none of these studies have been done on people eating paleo or zero carb, which makes it a different ballgame. You can't tell me that they didn't cook over fire in HG times. And trust me, if a paleo, or low carber came down with cancer, you'd hear about all over the news. I'll continue to eat my broiled meat as it is the only way worth cooking it.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 05, 2010
at 12:30 AM

People eating zero carb could be more at risk. Fibre, fruit, vegetables and plant antioxidants may reduce some of the harm by binding or neutralising heterocyclic amines in the gut.

0
65b264d08baee91c52a4b7ea2d4a6665

on June 27, 2012
at 04:37 AM

:(

that's basically my frustrated reaction since I've been grilling for the majority of my meals since trying to move to a more 'paleo-based'/not trying to eat satanic bullshit foods diet. Nature just can't give me a break can it? ARGH

What am I going to do with all my local farm bought patties now? (Seriously I have no idea since all I own is a grill and an oven). I suppose this gives me an opportunity to try other methods too as a newbie to cooking.

I still won't completely stop grilling but of course I have another thing to keep me awake at night.

:( again.

0
06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on May 04, 2010
at 05:21 PM

I recall a Discovery Channel program done in Australia with aboriginal folks. They eat ostrich eggs cooked in the charcoals of a small open fire...they crack the egg right onto the coals. They offered some to the Discovery and he about choked on the eggs/charcoal so he brought out his iron skillet...much to the amazement of the aboriginals and cooked another egg and offered it to the aboriginals. They just laughed their asses off and said why carry such a useless article such as a heavy frying pan and besides, the eggs had no flavor!

Can't say anthing about how the aborginals cook their kangaroo meat but I do know it is available in markets in Australia.

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