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Grilling and Cancer

Is There Harm In Grilling Meats?

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Updated May 15, 2007

Summer in the United States means cookouts and family barbecues. Hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and chicken are the epitome of the perfect weekend summer meal.

For years, there has been controversy over whether grilled red meat and chicken could cause cancer. This subject has been circulated through email chains as being true and false, and there have even been conflicting reports on television in the past. So, what do we believe?

Does Grilling or Barbecuing Meat Cause Cancer?

According to Dr. Ted Gansler, director of Medical Content for the American Cancer Society, eating excessive amounts of grilled meat or chicken can increase your risk of developing cancer. This is also true for pan-fried meats at high temperatures.

Current research tells us that the well done or charred meats pose the highest risk. The problem that cooking at very high temperatures break down the amino acid, creatine, in meats. When this occurs, chemical is formed, heterocyclic amines (HAs). HAs are carcinogenic and are linked to cancer.

Is there a Safe Way to Grill?

Keep in mind, that grilling occasionally appears to be okay. Excessive consumption of grilled foods cooked at a very high temperature is the risk factor for developing cancer.

Experts recommend that foods be cooked at lower temperatures, even if it means cooking longer. The goal is to prevent charring the meat. You can do this on a charcoal grill by allowing the flames to go down after lighting. On a gas grill, try raising the grill rack, away from the heat.

Using skewers is also an excellent way to limit the amount of grilled meat consumed during a meal. Small pieces of meat, combined with fresh fruits and vegetables on the grill make for an attractive, and delicious meal.

Keep in mind that just like everything in life, moderation is key. There is only an increased risk of cancer when excessive amounts cooked at high temperatures are consumed. You still can enjoy grilled meats, but just do so in moderation and when cooked at low temperatures.

For more information and some great grilling recipes, please visit About Barbecues and Grilling.
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