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sherm80 posted:
Not sure if this is correct "community" for this question, but, question is, we grill alot in summer, but with all the depressing hoopla now about grilling carcinogens lurking, just how safe is this mode of cooking? We usually marinate our meats/fish, have used the foil method, and do not let the meat get that charbroiled effect, blackened, so to speak. And is this more prevalent with charcoal grills vs gas grills? Also, this bad effect grilling has, does that pertain to the blackened, charred part of grilling, or just the meat, as a whole, being on the grill, period??

Thanx. It's a shame something that is enjoyable, and we've been doing for YEARS, we now come to find it could kill ya, hah, pathetic!!
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Elaine Magee, MPH, RD responded:
Lower potential cancer risks associated with grilling.
PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and HCAs (heterocyclic amines) are carcinogens formed on the surface of well-done meat cooked at high temperatures. PAHs, for example, come from smoke. "Technically anything that spends any time around smoke will contain some level of PAHs," explains Glen Weldon, Head of Education and Communications at the American Institute for Cancer Research. It's the fat dripping from meat that produces the smoke, which deposits the PAHs on the food. The AICR recently concluded that the evidence that these substances (PAHs and HCAs) increase the risk of cancer in humans is "limited but suggestive." The good news is many of the grilling suggestions in the first 9 tips, help reduce your intake of these two substances.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, what you grill is perhaps more important than how often you grill. A recently published AICR report on diet and cancer prevention concluded that diets high in red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and especially processed meats (including the all-American hot dogs) are now a "convincing" cause of colorectal cancer. The results of a recent study published in the journal, Epidemiology, support the accumulating evidence that the consumption of meats cooked by methods that promote carcinogen formation may increase risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. And keep in mind that grilling vegetables and fruit produces negligable HCAs or PAHs. In fact, diets high in plant foods in general, are associated with a reduced risk of several cancers.

Here are a few grilling suggestions to reduce your cancer risk:
  • Make it with a low fat marinade! Some research suggests that marinating meat (even briefly) significantly reduces the formation of HCAs. Including garlic and onions in the marinade may help reduce HCAs formation on cooked meat as well.
  • Select leaner cuts (and trim any visible fat), to prevent dripping fat from causing flare-ups, which is what deposits carcinogens on the meat.
  • Flip the meat on the grill often. This will help reduce the amount of carcinogens potentially depositing on the meat.
  • You can also reduce flare-ups by spreading aluminum foil on the grill. Make small holes in the foil to allow the fat from the meat to drain.


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