Health concerns raised by barbecued meats spur new ideas for the summer cookout
FRIDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- If you're given the choice between a grilled hamburger or a grilled Portobello mushroom this Memorial Day weekend, go for the veggie.
Eating meat that's charred or well-done raises the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a recent study. Grilled veggies don't carry the same risk.
"It doesn't mean if you eat well-done steak that you will get cancer, but it is more evidence to suggest a relationship exists between eating grilled meats and certain cancers," said Denise Snyder, a nutrition researcher at the Duke University School of Nursing. Snyder was not involved in the study, which was recently presented by Minnesota researchers at an annual cancer meeting.
While red meat and processed meats such as hotdogs are high on the list of foods to eat only in limited quantities, all meats -- including chicken, pork and fish -- can also generate a cancer-causing reaction when cooked on a hot grill, Snyder said.
"When you apply high temperature to any grilled meat, it breaks down the muscle proteins and creates a cancer-causing substance which can damage our DNA and genetic material," Snyder said. "That can jump-start the cancer development process."
In the study, which was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting in Denver in April, researchers used survey information about meat intake and preferred cooking methods from 62,581 participants.
Researchers found that those who preferred very well-done steak were 60 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate steak less well-done or did not eat steak.
High heat is believed to cause a chemical reaction that transforms amino acids and creatine found in muscle tissue into carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines.
While not a call to give up the backyard barbecue, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
The American Cancer Society has more on diet and cancer.
-- Jennifer Thomas
SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, May 18, 2009
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