Grilling with high-heat can increase your cancer risk, according to National Cancer Institute.
Cooking beef, pork, fish or poultry using high-temperature methods can lead to the formation of chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These HCAs and PAHs are mutagenic, meaning they can cause changes in your DNA, in turn increasing your risk for developing cancer.
Studies have demonstrated the link between HCAs and PAHs exposure and cancer in animal models. In many experiments, rodents fed a diet supplemented with HCAs developed tumors of the breast, colon, liver, skin, lung, prostate, and other organs. Rodents fed PAHs also developed cancers, including leukemia and tumors of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs. However, the doses of HCAs and PAHs used in these studies were very high—equivalent to thousands of times the doses that a person would consume in a normal diet.
The good news is the risk can be reduced by simple ways. With just smart food choices and a little preparation, grilling can be fun, delicious and healthy.
“It might seem like everything fun causes cancer,” said Catherine Carpenter, a professor of clinical nutrition and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “But it’s fine to grill meat, you just need to be aware of what parts of it increase cancer risk and then make lifestyle changes not only that you can live with, but that you can live with for a long time.”
According to Carpenter, four subtle modifications that can help reduce your risk of developing cancer while grilling:
- Don’t grill your meat on direct heat-Turn the flame on part of the grill and put the meat on the other part that doesn’t have any flame.
- Turn your meat frequently –If your meat happens to get exposed to direct flame be sure to turn it over frequently to reduce your exposure to HCAs.
- Cut off the charcoal –If portions of your meat become charred during grilling, trim them before serving. That will also help reduce your exposure to these damaging chemicals.
- Be sure to serve fruits and vegetables along with your grilled meats-Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which counteract the effects of these cancer-causing chemicals.