Diet and Nutrition Q&A by Betty Kovacs
Lots of images like family gatherings, 4th of July, tailgate parties, and warm summer nights come to mind when you hear barbecue. In fact, one of the definitions for barbecue is "a social gathering, usually held outdoors, at which food is cooked over an open flame." On the flipside of this joyous event is the reality that there is research that shows that barbecuing can be hazardous to your health. But don't worry, there is still a way to have your "barbecued steak" and eat it too.
The health problem lies in the meat. Research has discovered two cancer-causing (carcinogenic) byproducts associated with barbecuing red meat, poultry, lamb, pork, and fish. The first is a carcinogen called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). The National Institute of Health, Department of Health and Human Services included HCAs on its reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen list. HCAs are formed due to the high temperatures occurring when meat is overcooked or char-grilled. Studies have shown that when HCAs were fed in the diet, rodents developed cancers in many organs, including the colon, breast, and prostate. Research is still underway to determine if this applies to humans as well. The second carcinogen associated with barbecuing is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). They are formed when fat drips onto the coal or hot surface. The smoke carries the PAHs to the food. They can also form directly on the food when it is charred.
The recipe for healthy barbecuing is to follow some simple tips:
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Last Editorial Review: 3/19/2007