The question is can grilled food give you cancer?
Grilling and barbecuing your food will not give you cancer. There is no conclusive evidence that states you will get cancer from eating foods that are grilled or barbecued. There are carcinogens that are found in food that is improperly cooked. Food that is burnt carries a higher number of these risky chemicals. But we do not like to eat food that is burnt. Also, these chemicals found are created in the frying and broiling process as well. It is true that there is a higher risk if you use unsafe grilling practices like excessive accelerant, improperly used charcoal, treated or poisonous wood, or fatty dripping meats causing flare ups. But even the National Cancer Society agrees that common sense can prevent this.
Below explains how I came to this conclusion, and why I was even thinking about it in the first place.
We all have them. That person who sends you email chain letters, that are full of sensationalized facts and half truths. The letters that demand you send them to everyone you know on pain of death, full of doom-saying words meant to frighten you into compliance. One such email I received was a litany about how barbecued and grilled foods cause cancer.
I naturally dismissed this letter as another fake, (like most chain letters) and held as much weight as a wet piece of toilet paper. Shortly thereafter, I noticed a flood of similar speculation in the media. I like to look into these things myself and form my own opinions, and you should do the same. So I went a-researching to discover if it was true. Did grilled and barbecued food lead to cancer? Was my world about to collapse?
Two carcinogens (cancer causing agents) are created in the process of grilling and barbecuing.
• HCA’s – Heterocyclic Amines, created when amino acids in meat break down. These are found on the inside of cooked food. That means that the cooking process in general creates this chemical. Specifically high heat cooking like grilling, barbecuing, broiling and frying.
• PHA’s – Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, these are a byproduct of imperfect combustion and are found in most foods that are burnt, including the toast you ate this morning.
There are currently proper studies being done to determine the effect of the HCA’s and PHA’s on humans. But as of this moment there are no definitive links from consumption of the little of these chemicals that we do eat, and cancer. Furthermore, there are no federal guidelines to address consumption levels and the risks involved.
There has been a study completed in regards to the relationship between grilled and barbecued foods and cancer. It is the one that was stated in the chain letter I received. The one that began this whole thought process. This “research” seemed fairly definitive upon first read. Basically rats were fed charred foods to see what would happen. Many of them developed cancer.
First, I am against animal testing.
Second, not only was the food burnt until it was mostly charred inside and out, their diet was nearly completely replaced by this charred food. As a human, you would not consume food that has been burned to a nearly unrecognizable cinder. And I also highly doubt you would eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for an extended period of time.
“They” say that all of this is related to the grilling and barbecuing processes. In actual fact, not all types of cooking with flame are as dangerous to your health. Unless you are barbecuing or grilling completely wrong, ie: over an open flame and extreme high heat, or spraying everything with accelerant, or smoking with treated wood, or poison oak and other dangerous woods, you’re already doing fine. As long as you follow the general rules of cooking you should be more than fine.
If you are one that prefers the charcoal to gas grilling and barbecuing, common sense may already be on your side. Using untreated briquettes and allowing the lighter fluid to burn off as the coals come to temperature is what you are supposed to do. Avoiding chemical accelerants is also helpful to keeping flames down. When cooking with charcoal you are supposed to be cooking with white hot briquettes or chunk, not flaming ones anyway.
As for the correlation between overly fatty foods and grilling. Reduce the fat content by trimming the meat if at all possible. This will prevent dangerous flare ups that char the meat.
HCA’s were also linked to the process of frying food and broiling it. Any cooking process that is a constant and very high heat. Wait! So it’s not just grilling and barbecuing that causes the production of this carcinogen?
In the travels of research I looked at a number of cancer support and research sites. Most, IMHO, are completely missing the point, and must live in a bubble. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have cancer survivors in my family, and yes there are some lifestyle changes that need to be made, but not to the extent that these people were talking. Many of these sites expressed that everyone should avoid meat entirely. This would be a good and healthful choice if the food that is consumed in this day and age, the stuff that is readily available and inexpensive, was not treated with chemicals and produced in a factory. What I am saying here is that unless you made it yourself from uber-scratch, you still run the risk of consuming the things that these bubble-people wish you to avoid. Again, that is my personal opinion.
That being said, the National Cancer Institute seemed to understand that some things are unavoidable, people like to grill and eat meat. They express that if you pay attention to what you are doing, you should be alright. That means that foods should be cooked at lower temperatures, and should not be rushed. In other words, follow the recipe. Charred bits, if any, should be removed from the food before consumption. And there have even been links between marination in acidic, beer, wine and rosemary based marinades preventing the formation of HCA’s.
I am still going to say no. If you have a balanced lifestyle. Can cook, and prefer to eat food that is edible, not burnt to a blackened cinder, you will be fine. Just don’t burn your food.
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