From Dr. Mercola:
Memorial Day weekend is often the start of outdoor grilling season. However, depending upon how close you live to the equator, you might be grilling outdoors all year long. Perfect weather, good friends and an outdoor barbecue grill may be your recipe for one of the joys of summertime.
While you may have discovered there is a growing mountain of research pointing to grilling and barbecuing meat as one way of ingesting cancer-causing chemicals, there are ways of enjoying your summer grilling that reduces the potential for trouble.
Many living in the U.S. find that grilling satisfies their need for good taste, and for keeping the number of pots and pans to a minimum. Some people find it personally satisfying to cook over an open fire, and others just enjoy entertaining friends and family at home.1
Whatever your personal reason for using the outdoor grill, it’s important to understand the risks involved and how to reduce them.
It’s All About Chemistry
Cooking is a form of chemistry. As you apply heat to different types of organic material (food), you get a chemical reaction you find either pleasing or distasteful. Meat, vegetables and fruit go through a unique process specific to the chemicals and nutrients found in them.
Different types of cooking produce different types of chemical reactions. This is why foods cooked in the oven will taste different than those sautéed on the stove or grilled over an open flame.
The addition of spices and marinades also changes the chemicals present during the cooking process and therefore the chemical reactions occurring while you cook.
Unfortunately, grilling gives you both a distinctive flavor combination in the meat and vegetables, as well as changes to the foods that may produce cancer causing chemicals.
Three important chemicals potentially produced during grilling are heterocyclic amines (HCAs), advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
These chemicals are formed in muscle meat when it’s cooked at high temperatures. Even cooking at high temperatures over the stove can cause the formation of these chemicals in the meat.2 In experiments in laboratory animals, HCAs are mutagenic.
This means the chemicals cause changes to the DNA in the lab animals, increasing their risk of cancer. HCAs are not found in appreciable amounts in other cooked foods, other than meat cooked at high temperatures. Once you eat the meat, the HCAs are metabolized in your body by specific enzymes.
Researchers have found that this group of enzymes has varying degrees of activity in different people. This may be relevant to how much or little the HCAs increase your specific risk of cancer.3
The amount of HCAs appear to be dependent on the type of meat, how well-done it is cooked and the temperature used to cook the meat. For example, researchers have found that well-done meat has 3 1/2 times more HCA than medium-rare meat, and fried pork has more than fried beef or fried chicken.4
To date, there have