While word continues to spread about the carcinogenic effects of eating grilled meat, a new study published in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistrymay have come up with a simple solution. Researchers from southern Europe found that simply marinating meat in beer prior to grilling it helps block the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which have been linked to causing cancer.
Isabel Ferreira from the University of Porto in Portugal and her colleagues arrived at this conclusion after testing grilled meat samples marinated in one of three types of beer — Pilsner beer (PB), nonalcoholic Pilsner beer (P0B) and black beer (BB). The anti-free-radical activity of these three marinades was evaluated using charcoal-grilled pork and compared to the typical free radical activity of an unmarinated charcoal-grilled pork control.
In the end, all the meat samples were found to contain some level of eight different PAHs, collectively dubbed PAH8, which the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has previously classified as indicators of carcinogenic potency. But those meats that were marinated in beer prior to being cooked exhibited the lowest levels of these eight carcinogens, presumably due to certain compounds in beer that guard against damaging oxidation.
“BB exhibited the strongest scavenging activity (68.0%), followed by P0B (36.5%) and PB (29.5%),” wrote the authors about the initial assay of the three beer marinades. “BB showed the highest inhibitory effect in the formation of PAH8 (53%), followed by P0B (25%) and PB (13%).”
The full text of the study can be accessed at the following link:
Citrus marinades, eating fermented foods can also help protect against carcinogenic meat
For those avoiding alcohol, and specifically beer, on health grounds, citrus-based marinades have also been shown to help protect against free radical formation. Avoiding open flames and cooking meat on indirect heat, such as in a thick cast-iron pan, is also helpful for blocking the formation of PAHs and other cancer-causing compounds.
Similarly, consuming fermented foods alongside charred meat can help mitigate the effects of exposure to both PAHs and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), another type of carcinogenic compound formed when meat is cooked on high heat. In her book Nourishing Traditions, traditional food advocate Sally Fallon Morell suggests consuming authentic kimchi or sauerkraut with grilled meat in order to minimize its carcinogenic impact.
“The lactic-acid producing bacteria in the fermented vegetables are the perfect antidote to carcinogenswhich may have formed in the meat if it has been barbecued,” she writes.
A 1998 article published in the Nutrition Action Healthletter also suggests cooking with liquid, whether that be boiling, steaming, poaching or stewing meat rather than broiling or barbecuing it. Though it may not be the tastiest way to eat your favorite meat products, cooking them with moisture rather than dry heat will limit the maximum temperature at which the meat is cooked.
“Grilling, barbecuing, broiling, and pan-frying are more likely to produce HCAs than baking or roasting, because they generate more heat,” explains the article. “Cooking with liquid–boiling, steaming, poaching, or stewing, for example–generates no HCAs because the temperature never tops the boiling point of water.”
To learn more about how to safely cook meat, check out the article “Safe Cooking: Beat The Heat”:
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