Want Cancer With That Burger?

Author:  Dr. Steve Chaney, Professor Nutrition & Biochemistry UNC

Independence Day is just around the corner and backyard cookouts are in full swing.  One question that you probably won’t hear from your host or hostess is “Would you like some cancer with that burger?”  But, perhaps that is exactly the question that they should be asking.

You probably didn’t really want to know that when fat from the meat hits the hot coals, carcinogens form that
are deposited on the meat.  You probably also didn’t want to know that when you cook meat to high temperatures the amino acids in the meat combine to form cancer causing substances.

And you really didn’t want to know that a recent study from the University of Minnesota showed that people who
consume well-done meat were 60% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

So what’s a person to do?  Our local newspaper recently carried some tips by Dr. Denise Snyder from the Duke University School of Nursing on how you could reduce the risk of giving your guests cancer the next time you are the chef at your backyard cookout.

Here are her suggestions:

– grill fruits and vegetables instead of meat. That was her idea, not mine.

– Use the lowest temperature that will cook your food thoroughly and keep the grill rack as high as possible.

– Use a meat thermometer so that you can make sure that as soon as the meat is thoroughly cooked you remove it from the grill. We usually overcook the meat to make sure that it is done.

– You can also shorten your grill time by microwaving the meat first, using thinner leaner cuts of meat or cutting up the meat and making kabobs.

– Trim as much fat from the meat as possible before you cook it.

– Line your grill rack with aluminum foil poked with holes. This allows the fat to drip down but minimizes the exposure of the meat to the carcinogens formed when the fat hits the coals.

– Marinate your meats before grilling. That has been shown to reduce the formation of cancer causing chemicals.

– And, of course, avoid processed meats like hot dogs and sausage completely because they have been shown to
increase the risk of cancer not matter how they are cooked.

So here’s to a healthier cookout. Bon appetit!

To Your Health!
Dr. Stephen G Chaney

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