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Cooking Meat

Is overcooked or burnt meat considered carcinogenic?
(December 29, 2010)

Carcinogenic Foods

Carcinogenic foods are those foods that are known to act as triggers that convert normal cells in the body into cancerous cells. Carcinogens are those substances that could find their way into ones day to day diet in the form of growth hormones which may have been fed to pigs and cows to fatten them up or even via insecticides as well as pesticides that could be sprayed on the fruits and vegetables that one may have consumed. On the other hand carcinogenic foods may also be in the form of carcinogens that have entered the foods via coloring agents and various preservatives.

Carcinogens in barbecued or burnt meat are formed because cooking meat on an open fire tends to create benzopyrenes which are polycyclic hydrocarbons. Therefore the consumption of such carcinogenic burnt meat tends to result in an increase in cancer of the pancreas, distal colon as well as breast cancer.

It has also been observed that carcinogens tend to occur naturally in some food such as coffee, tea and cocoa which when tested in the laboratory has resulted in the development of kidney and liver tumors. Black pepper is also known to be on the carcinogenic foods list. Research has shown that as compared to adults, children are known to be at a higher risk of carcinogenic foods and their effects because they tend to consume more liquids, foods and even take in more air. Carcinogenic foods are known to be highly dangerous especially to children because they tend to directly attack the brain, central nervous system and the rapidly developing organ systems of the child. One of the ways to minimize the intake of carcinogenic foods is to  avoid the consumption of all commercially available, cakes, cookies, biscuits  and so on that tend to show saturated fats as one of their ingredients. Additionally, the effect of carcinogenic foods can be tackled at home by ensuring that all vegetables and fruits are thoroughly washed with clean water before they are consumed or cooked. As far as possible it is always beneficial to consume fruits and vegetables that have been grown organically thereby resulting in no exposure to harmful pesticides and insecticides. The effects of carcinogenic foods can also be tackled by modifying ones diet to include the consumption of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables  especially tomatoes, carrots and citrus fruits that are known to be rich in lycopene which is very effective against lung, colon, prostrate, stomach and uterine cancer as well. Some of the foods that are high on the carcinogenic foods list include hot dogs, doughnuts, French fries as well as processed meats and bacon. Many people are keen to know if burnt foods have carcinogens or if they cause cancer. Research has shown that if food is burnt or heated excessively then a certain group of carcinogenic substances are released which are known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Once these substances have been consumed by the individual via the burnt food then they also travel into the intestines and other organs of the human body via the process of blood circulation. In such cases, these polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons not only cause cancer but also tend to increase toxicity of bone marrow, suppression of the immune system, reproductive toxicity, liver toxicity as well as cardiovascular toxicity.

Hence to minimize the burnt food cancer risk one should always ensure that they do not burn or overcook food as far as possible. In case the food has been burnt then one should remove any charred or burnt portion before consuming the food. Similarly as far as possible one shod also avoid the consumption of fatty meat that has been barbecued such as pork. This is because when the fat from these fatty meats tends to drizzle onto the hot coals or the flames; once again PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are formed that are known to cause cancer when consumed. These hydrocarbons tend to rise in the form of vapor and permeate the meat. In such cases, while barbecuing fatty meat it is advisable to take off the fatty portion and only barbecue the lean meat. One should also avoid grilling or barbecuing meat especially over charcoal. One should also avoid consuming burnt food that has been cooked in a pan as it is known to be high in carcinogens. In such cases, while cooking in a pan, one may avoid burning the food by turning it frequently. Research has also shown that cooking of muscle meats at high temperatures is known to expose humans to a risk of cancer. One of the best ways to avoid the effect of burnt carcinogenic meat is to use alternative methods of cooking food such as boiling, stewing, braising, casseroling, poaching and so on. As far as possible one should minimize or completely stop the intake of chips, toasted nuts or cereals as well as any such deep fried foods. Some foods are also known to be naturally carcinogenic such as mustard seeds, eggs, fish, and so on.

However in order for these foods to actually pose a serious cancer risk one should consume these foods in sufficiently large amounts over an extended period of time. Similarly research has also shown that food that involve the fermentation process when they are being produced such as wine, bread, beer, yogurt and so on are also known to contain certain mild carcinogenic substances. However as discussed earlier, these foods have to be consumed over a considerably long period of time for them to actually pose a risk of cancer to the individual. Similarly, one should also be wary about the consumption of trans fats as besides being carcinogenic they are also known to hamper the metabolic processes, increase the risk of heart disease and also result in the accumulation of belly fat or abdominal fat which is known to strain the heart and crowd the organs. Hence to avoid the pitfalls of consuming carcinogenic foods one should always pay attention to the labels on food and avoid foods that have sugar, sucrose, as one of their ingredients.

Submitted by S M on December 29, 2010 at 11:32


Cooking meat is not an easy task. You need to do it carefully and ensure that the meat is cooked properly and fully. You need to be careful while cooking as overcooking or burnt meat may encourage the development of carcinogens. A carcinogen is any substance that causes cancer. There are many factors that contribute to the development of carcinogens in our bodies. For example, cooking of any type of meat at high temperatures can produce carcinogens that may lead to prostate cancer. If you charbroil chicken or any other meat with its skin on, it can lead to the development of carcinogens. This is why you need to be careful while cooking, especially while cooking meat.

While cooking meat products like sausages, a number of chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HAs) are formed. Once they are formed, they are not easily broken down and as a result, their concentration levels stay high in the food even if they are cooked properly and fully. Both these chemicals, PAHs and Has, have proven to cause cancer in animals. Although cooking meat may lead to the production of some harmful chemicals, you must never undercook meat as the bacteria in the meat will not die and these may lead to food poisoning. This is especially true while cooking minced meat and chicken. While cooking, you need to make sure that no pink meat is left behind. Also, you need to make sure that the running water is clear. Even while barbecuing meat, you need to make sure that the meat is cooked evenly at a steady heat. If you cook it over naked flames, you will end up burning the meat from the outside and the meat inside will stay uncooked and raw.  Wait till the charcoal gets red with a powdery surface before you start cooking the meat.

Also, another important thing that you need to remember while cooking meat is that you must wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any meat so that the bacteria don’t spread to other food that you are preparing. Also once you are done with preparing the food, avoid reheating the food often as it may encourage the development of bacteria and carcinogens. Cooking is both an art and a science. If you do it properly, your food will taste good. Ignoring the basic tenets of cooking meat can lead to serious health issues.
Submitted by E L on June 1, 2010 at 12:33


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