What do Red Meat, BBQs and Cancer have to do with one another?

Have you ever rolled your eyes when you reached for a beef hamburger rather than a chicken burger while someone tells you that it will increase your risk of cancer? Well I hate to break it to you, but it’s true. There is research evidence to show increases in several cancers that are associated with high consumption of red (beef, veal, pork) meat and processed meat (sausages, some deli, bacon) . Read more at my blog about ‘bacon’  and also the World Health Organization’s warning about red meat.

My warnings don’t mean you should never eat red meat. Red meat is rich in iron, vitamin B12 and zinc as well as protein, which helps build bone and muscles. Instead, limit consumption of red meat to two to three times per week and avoid consuming any processed meat.

Consider other options such as foul (chicken, turkey, cornish hens) and all types of fish, though smaller ones have less mercury and lots of  ‘orange coloured fish’ (salmon, rainbow trout, arctic char) have more good fats ‘omega’ bite for bite! Learn more about the benefits of omega fatty acids. 

The risk of cancer also increases the more you eat charred BBQ foods. That includes not only beef, but all meats and vegetables we grill.  When cooking at high temperatures or when food is in direct contact with flame, it produces carcinogenic or cancer causing chemicals. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) is one type. The worst part of the meat is the blackened section, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and avoid eating any blackened sections. Also, when fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, the smoke surrounds your food and it can transfer cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the meat.

The American Institute for Cancer Research says marinating meat for at least 30 minutes can reduce the formation of HCAs.

The type of marinade matters, based on research at Kansas State University and The Food Science Institute. Steaks were marinated for one hour prior to grilling in one of three commercial marinades — Caribbean, Southwest, or herb. Each significantly decreased HCAs:

  • The Caribbean mixture decreased total HCA content by 88 percent
  • The herb marinade decreased HCAs by 72 percent
  • The Southwest marinade decreased HCAs by 57 percent

For those of you who love to marinade with alcohol, it turns out beer is a better anti-HCA marinade than red wine in your marinade can do you some good, according to a study from the University of Porto in Portugal by Isabel Ferreira. Marinating meat using beer or wine reduces the carcinogens produced from grilling by 90 percent, compared to meat that’s not marinated. Isabel Ferreira, the study’s lead researcher, says the antioxidants and polyphenols in beer and red wine act as free-radical scavengers, targeting the cancer-causing chemicals.

Interestingly, certain types of beer worked better than others (namely, the darker, presumably more antioxidant-rich beer had the best effect).

  • A pale lager marinade (pilsner) reduced the formation of PAHs by 36.5 percent
  • A nonalcoholic pilsner marinade reduced formation by 25 percent
  • A black beer marinade (a dark lager) reduced PAHs by 68 percent

According to the study, beer is faster at reducing HCAs than red wine. Reduced HCAs in beefsteak occurred after four hours of marinating in pilsner at 8°C and after six hours in wine.

Scientists are not sure why this is an effective preventative step, but a marinade acts like a barrier between your meat and carcinogens. It can’t hurt to add a bit of rub to your cooking to prevent cancer. Beer or wine used this way can certainly be a few ounces of important prevention.

Dr. Elizabeth Stavros N.D. Recommends Antioxidant Support Product

Grilling on the BBQ causes the formation of products of incomplete combustion, that are known carcinogens. Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS) that include these carcinogens. As long as you have adequate antioxidants, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants.


Author: Elaine Chin

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