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We All Love A Barbecue, But Can Overcooked Meat Give You Cancer?

We all love a barbecue, but can overcooked meat give you cancer? 
Charcoaled or overcooked meat has been linked to certain types of cancer, particularly those in the gastrointestinal tract. There have been many studies examining the impact of certain food substances on our risk of developing cancer. 

The difficulty with this research is that it has been conducted using mice. Clearly humans and mice are different, however in certain parts of the body there are similarities. Recently researches have humanised mice to better understand the connection between food and health risks. 

What they found was when humanised mice consumed potential cancer forming compounds from food, the rate of cancer increased to 80%. This is almost 50% more tumours than shown in previous studies. 

Compounds formed during heating food (frying and barbecuing) are called carcinogens. Some of the typical carcinogens include nitrosamines, nitrates and other compounds which are metabolised by an enzyme called sulfotransferases (SULT).

When the mice with SULT enzymes were fed a diet high in the black crust on meat and fish, they were more likely to develop cancer. Whilst this study does show an increase in the risk of cancer, there are other factors to consider. 

When researchers play around with the genetic make up of animals, they typically cause other changes downstream that may not be picked up in the study. This could be a factor in the higher incidence of cancer in these studies. The other issue is that it didn’t assess the effects of other foods, like high fibre, anti-oxidants and probiotics which are protective against cancer. 

I’m not suggesting you stop eating barbecues in view of this new research. I love a nice steak on the barbecue. However you might consider adding some salad or grain bread to help clean things through and reduce your risk of cancer. 

 ‘eat right, have fun, live well’
29 Feb 2012

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