Grilling mod­er­a­tion should limit health risks

The Saline Courier Weekend - - OPINION - DR. GLAZIER

Dear Doctor: Our family loves the summer bar­be­cue sea­son, but the “take the fun out of ev­ery­thing” lobby keeps say­ing this can in­crease our risk of can­cer. Just how un­healthy is grilled meat? Can we do any­thing to make it safer?

Dear Reader: The po­ten­tial health threat of grilled meat is one of those cyclic news sto­ries that pops up each spring as re­li­ably as the first cro­cuses. The is­sue has its roots in decades of science, but the sub­se­quent writ­ing about the po­ten­tial risks has ranged from mea­sured and help­ful to off-the-charts alarmist. To sort through the noise, let’s start with some ba­sics.

When we cook meat over high heat, or to high tem­per­a­tures, a num­ber of chem­i­cal com­pounds, a few of them potentiall­y dan­ger­ous, are formed. The grilling of beef, poul­try, pork, fish and other mus­cle meats cre­ates het­e­ro­cyclic amines, or HCAS. These are formed not only in grilling, but dur­ing other high-heat cook­ing, such as broil­ing, pan fry­ing and deep fry­ing. When meat juices ig­nite on the hot coals be­neath the grill, or when they come into contact with any sur­face hot enough to evap­o­rate liq­uid and cre­ate smoke, that smoke con­tains chem­i­cal com­pounds called poly­cyclic aro­matic hy­dro­car­bons, or PAHS. When the smoke comes into contact with the meat -- and what­ever else is on the grill -- it leaves be­hind potentiall­y dan­ger­ous com­pounds. Lab ex­per­i­ments have shown that HCAS and PAHS have the po­ten­tial to cause changes to DNA, which means that they may in­crease the risk of can­cer.

So far this all sounds pretty grim, so it’s help­ful to put things into con­text. In lab ex­per­i­ments, most of them con­ducted in test tubes and in an­i­mals, re­searchers use doses of HCAS and PAHS that are ex­tremely high, the equiv­a­lent of thou­sands of times the ex­po­sure of a per­son eat­ing a typ­i­cal diet. By com­par­i­son, the lev­els of HCAS and PAHS gen­er­ated by home cook­ing and grilling meth­ods are quite low. How­ever, on­go­ing pop­u­la­tion stud­ies con­tinue to find a link be­tween grilling and a slight in­crease in can­cer risk. The take­away here, as with so many plea­sures in life, is mod­er­a­tion.

When it comes to grilling, a few sim­ple steps can make your meal safer. First, grill meat sep­a­rately from other foods to limit ex­po­sure to PAHS, the com­pounds con­tained in ris­ing meat smoke. Veg­eta­bles, fruit, bread and piz­zas, all pop­u­lar grilling op­tions, should be cooked at a dif­fer­ent time from the meat, or at the very least on their own side of the grill. When it comes to meat, it’s wise to avoid high cook­ing tem­per­a­tures and pro­longed cook­ing times. Turn­ing meat fre­quently while it’s on the grill helps keep charred ar­eas from form­ing. Be sure to re­move any charred por­tions be­fore serv­ing and eat­ing.

A fi­nal note -- stud­ies have shown that acidic mari­nades that con­tain no sugar (but spices are fine) can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the for­ma­tion of PAHS. A mari­nade of le­mon juice re­duced the gen­er­a­tion of PAHS by 70%, while le­mon juice mixed with oil re­duced PAHS by 57%. We hope this helps, and that you have an en­joy­able and health­ful grilling sea­son.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.