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Charred food = cancer - do you buy it?

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  • Charred food = cancer - do you buy it?

    I don't. Sure, there are "studies" that show that char is carcinogenic. But so what, there are studies that say red meat leads to early death. Since I've picked up PB, I've started questioning these "scientists" more often.

    What is the real deal on BBQ and charred foods? I mean, is there really a risk here? Because my gut tells me it's total BS.

  • #2
    I remember hearing about it, especially with toast (when i did have bread..), I love my toast charred to hell, altho I do scrape the really bad excess off.

    I had a BBQ yesterday with friends and charred chicken is the most beautiful thing ive tasted in a LONG while.


    • #3
      No I simply don't at the moment. You can char the hell out of food and then find a "carcinogen" in it but it's a huge leap to go from the presence of a carcinogen to a cancer-causing endeavor. How much more carcinogenic is smoking than eating BBQ food? Lots more I'll bet, and yet smoking doesn't even seem to be all that profoundly cancer-causing in the absence of systemic inflammation (france, kitava)

      Fear the omega 6! I like nutritional sufficiency too. Vitamin d anyone?
      Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

      Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!


      • #4
        from Dr. Mercola:

        There have been massive public health agendas aimed at the importance of thoroughly cooking your meat to prevent food poisoning, but very little has been said about the danger of overcooking your meats. The end result is a massive, widely held misconception about the healthiest way to cook your meat.

        Ironically, if you get meat from a reputable source, such as a small organic farm, the risks of food poisoning from undercooked meat drastically diminish. But anytime you grill, barbecue or fry foods, you are exposing yourself to cancer-causing chemicals. This is not just a risk; it’s pretty much a guarantee.

        This is why, assuming you get your meat from a high-quality source, you are far better off eating it lightly cooked or even raw as opposed to well-done or charred.

        As this most recent study found, those who ate a lot of well-done steak had a 60 percent greater pancreatic cancer risk than those who ate steak less well done, so there are some strong associations here. Charred meats have actually been linked to many forms of cancer, including breast and prostate.

        What are the Primary Cooking Culprits?

        Any time you cook meat at high temperatures, whether you’re grilling, frying, broiling, etc., some pretty nasty chemicals are created. The three you should be aware of are:

        • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): These form when food is cooked at high temperatures, and they’re linked to cancer. In terms of HCA, the worst part of the meat is the blackened section, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and never eat blackened sections.

        Scientists have estimated the average cancer risk because of heterocyclic amine exposure ranges from 1 per 10,000 for the average person to more than 1 per 50 for those ingesting large amounts of well-done muscle meats, especially flame-grilled chicken.

        • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, the smoke surrounds your food and it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.

        • Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures (including when it is pasteurized or sterilized), it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. When you eat the food, it transfers the AGEs into your body. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

        Aside from these dangerous chemicals formed, overcooking meat will make it much harder for your body to digest. The higher the temperature that food is cooked, the longer it stays in your gut and the more difficult it becomes for your digestive mechanisms to digest it.

        This makes it more difficult for the food to be absorbed and function at a cellular level where it needs to work. When food cannot function in your cells, the cells can become deficient or toxic, which leads to deficiency and toxicity of your whole body, making your body less able to function optimally.

        Does This Mean You Have to Give Up Grilling This Summer?

        I know many of you are quite fond of your barbecue grills, and really I’d rather see more Americans staying home to cook their own meals, even if it is on a grill, than going out for fast food or eating processed convenience foods.

        Plus, I don’t think you have to be completely perfect with your diet. I fully believe you just need to eat very well 80-95% of the time. If you do that your body typically has enough reserve to compensate for the damage you cause, for instance by eating grilled meat.

        The exception here is if you are really sick or have a terminal illness. Then you will want to get as close to 100% perfect with your diet as practically possible to improve your chances of recovery.

        If you do opt to keep on grilling, there are ways to drastically cut back on the harmful substances formed, and I suggest you get in the habit of using them.

        How to Make Grilling Healthier

        One of the easiest ways to do this is simply by marinating your meat before cooking.

        Marinating steak in red wine or beer for six hours before frying can cut levels of two types of HCAs by up to 90 percent. Beer was also efficient at reducing a third type of HCA, cutting levels significantly in just four hours.

        Previous research has also shown that a red wine marinade has a similar effect on HCA levels in fried chicken. A sauce made of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic can also lower HCA levels in grilled chicken by as much as 90 percent.

        As I said earlier, ideally you should eat your meat raw or very lightly cooked, but for those of you who aren’t ready to give up cooked meat just yet, here are my top guidelines to keep in mind.

        1. Limit the amount of grilled foods you eat, and make sure you’re eating plenty of other raw foods in your diet.

        2. You can reduce the amount of PAHs when you grill by not cooking fatty meats, and by trimming the fat off before you grill.

        3. When grilling, cook your food with indirect heat, such as on a rack rather than directly on the coals. Cooking on a cedar plank is also helpful.

        4. Always avoid charring your meat (and don't eat the black or brown parts).

        5. Cook meat partially before putting it on the grill, or cook smaller pieces of meat, which take less time to cook, and therefore give HCAs less time to form.

        6. You can reduce the amount of AGEs in your food by using an acidic marinade that contains lemon juice or vinegar.

        7. Marinating meats before grilling or broiling them can reduce HCAs (according to some experts by 90 percent or more). However, only use natural ingredients for marinades, and keep the coating thin to avoid charring.

        8. Flip your burgers often, as this will help cut down on HCAs.

        9. Add blueberries or cherries to your burgers, as they can also help prevent the formation of HCAs.

        10. Avoid grilling hot dogs, bratwurst and other processed meats, as these seem to be among the worst offenders.

        11. Only grill high-quality, organic and grass-fed meats.

        12. Cook the meat as little as possible. Rare or medium-rare at the absolute most. You can also quickly sear the meat on both sides, leaving the inside mostly raw. This gives the illusion that you’re eating cooked meat, with many of the benefits of raw.


        • #5
          "When food is cooked at high temperatures (including when it is pasteurized or sterilized), it increases the formation of AGEs in your food"

          I find the above statement confusing because it doesn't mention any specific temperatures. I consider "high" grilling temps to be 450F and up. Obviously broiling is 500F+. High frying temps are 350F+. But I thought pasteurization was usually around 160F degrees?


          • #6
            Yeah but I still don't buy it. Who is this doctor? How was the study conducted? Remember, there was a recent study that linked red meat consumption to early death. The study was flawed in that it only controlled cigarette smoking; the participants in the study could eat donuts, sugar, not exercise, etc.

            As this most recent study found, those who ate a lot of well-done steak had a 60 percent greater pancreatic cancer risk than those who ate steak less well done, so there are some strong associations here. Charred meats have actually been linked to many forms of cancer, including breast and prostate.
            This is the problem with these brilliant researchers. They don't understand "correlation vs. causation." So there is a correlation between charred meats and pancreatic cancer. So? What else were these people eating? What were their lifestyle habits?

            People have been cooking for over 100,000 years, especially over open flame. I just don't buy this whole "study." Meat (natural) + fire (natural) = polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines? Gimme a break. There's some other variable unaccounted for.


            • #7
              I pulled some relative studies on pubmed and smoking is as vilified as grilling. In fact, smoked pork had the highest level of carcinogens. I like disagreeing with Mercola. He's such a fear monger. This time of year I grill almost every other day. It's too hot to cook inside, and I like cooking on the grill. I have been avoiding PAH by mostly cooking with indirect heat, coals on one side meat on the other. I am very, no, I am extremely pleased with the results, but AGEs and the other bad guys are still an issue. There's always the crock pot. Nah.


              • #8
                Who is Mercola? Hah! Only THE most popular health consultant in the history of the internet.


                • #9
                  I'm sure Ancel Keys was popular in his day, too. Come on, we as PB'ers should know better than to blindly follow what doctors tell us. Many of them are just dead wrong.
                  Edit: I had my anti-sarcasm hat on.. missed that
                  Last edited by CaptSaltyJack; 07-05-2010, 02:05 PM.


                  • #10
                    I agree with Stabby's points, even though he keeps deleting his posts.


                    • #11
                      About the AGE thing, if you are afraid of ages, don't eat fruit and don't do things to fuck with your insulin sensitivity

                      I found one study that says that cooking the absolute shit out of meat has a modest correlation with greater prostate cancer, but I can't help but think that in the absence of systemic inflammation it doesn't even matter. Also Mark mentioned something about so much as a salad or some spices with the meal completely eliminates all of that, so I'm very hesitant to do the Mercola wag-of-the-finger thing. But torching shit less can't be a bad thing.

                      edit: yeah I'm a stickler for good elocution.
                      Last edited by Stabby; 07-05-2010, 02:37 PM.
                      Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

                      Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!


                      • #12
                        I would say, listen to your tastebuds: if something is charred to hell and it tastes like crap, don't eat it.


                        • #13
                          I think, as usual, when man intervenes in the feeding of animals, he creates issues that there wouldn't have been if we just let the cows graze as nature intended. Everyone has to gleen whatever they wish to from articles, research, etc and let their common sense dictate their choices...but I do have to reiterate, commercially raised meat is NOT a good idea....there are just too many imbalances that are created from feeding them the garbage that they do. It's so sad....hopefully, the more people purchase grass fed beef, the more inexpensive and common place it will become..just like the old, it's so much more humane. (here in Canada at least)... Mercola may be a bit of a fear monger in many instances, but I recall, 8 or 9 years ago, he sounded the vitamin D alarm and finally, just this past year, mainstream is catching up with the info. He's dead on on MANY issues....and yes, he sells many things on his site...(the best coconut oil in the world.. I buy a 1 gallon tub there for only $60)... and FABULOUS KRILL capsules...... but overall, his information is sound and helpful. His newsletter is always a good read.


                          • #14
                            Well Doctors are all hyped up about Omega 3s and Vitamin D. Should we ignore them? I just saw Omega 3 cookies in the local store.

                            Also, the carcinogens created by charring, overcooking, frying, cooking over wood and charcoal are real. Even vegetarians crank up the AGEs when they char tofu, so this isn't part of the militant vegan misinformation campaign. I suspect I grill more than most of us, and I sure ain't slowing down since turning PB. It just seems silly on a board with all the fear of pesticides, grains, potatoes, nuts, antibiotics. etc., the denial of some other simple poison. As far as I can tell all food is poison, but we still have to pick our poison.


                            • #15
                              Nobody is doubting whether or not they are real, what I am doubting is whether or not it makes the slightest bit of difference in the context of nutritional sufficiency and lack of systemic inflammation. The wind is real but it is not a tornado.
                              Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

                              Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!