Frequent consumption of burnt meat may lead to cancer according to new research. Just over sixty thousand volunteers were recruited and their eating habits were monitored over a nine year period. It was discovered that there was a 60% increase of cases involving cancer of the pancreas in those volunteers who consumed burnt/charred meat regularly.
The particular types of meat examined were poultry, beef, fish and pork. It was found that when these meats were cooked at a high temperature via either grilling or frying that numerous chemical compounds were released that had mutating effects. The isolated chemicals included various heterocyclic amines (HCA) & polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
Particularly the HCAs underwent a process known as “denaturing” when the meats were exposed to the high temperatures. Denaturing is a biological process whereby amino acids lose their biologically active shape and instead become mere open-chains of unstructured molecules. This could be a dangerous process since HCAs normally serve specific biological roles only in their natural, non de-natured state. Their de-natured state may have unintended, unknown effects when consumed.
In addition to this, the study found that PAHs were released when exposed to an open flame. PAHs are more like “sticky” molecules that attach themselves to the surface area of various meats during cooking. PAHs are commonly found in the exhaust of automobiles and in other types of dangerous smoke such as cigarettes. When these PAHs stick to meat, their consumption can have the same dangerous effect as if someone was smoking a cigarette directly – something that non-smokers may find quite shocking.
Fortunately, there is a safe way to cook. It has been advised by scientists to cook meat at a low temperature, flip the meat regularly and ensure it is properly marinated. And perhaps most importantly – do not put the meat directly over open flames, but rather use an indirect heat source. Avoiding a direct flame with marinated meat should reduce the buildup of denatured HCAs and PAHs. Marination acts to reduce the burning directly, and in addition can add a zesty flavor/taste to meats; lime juices and chilli sauce are a delicious combination.