The sound of meat or poultry as it sizzles on the grill may make your mouth water.
The mouth-watering aroma of a sizzling meat or poultry engulfs your senses as you await that appetizing first bite. Eating grilled meat may sound delicious, however, a recent study suggests breast cancer survivors should avoid large amounts of grilled, barbecued or smoked meats because of the possible cancer-related health risks.
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The study, published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was the first of its kind to explore the effect of eating grilled meats as it relates to breast cancer survivors’ longevity.
The researchers studied more than 1,500 women from Long Island, New York, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 and 1997, then followed their progress for nearly 20 years. Part of the assessments included detailing the amount of grilled/barbecued and smoked meat the women consumed, both before and after their diagnosis.
The study assessed that eating lots of barbecued, grilled or smoked meat before a cancer diagnosis lowered the women’s odds of survival by 23 percent.
Carolyn Lammersfeld, Vice President of Integrative Medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) says;
“Cooking meat at high temperatures creates carcinogens that can cause changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. Whenever you cook meats at high temperatures, carcinogens can be formed. Processed meats have compounds within them that are known carcinogens. Especially in the case of grilling fat from the meat, it can splash, creating flames and smoke, causing carcinogens to splash back onto the food.”
The research team singled out beef, pork and lamb, in particular, as potentially harmful. In contrast, women who ate smoked poultry and fish after their diagnosis had better survival rates.
Sammersfeld said more studies are needed to confirm the risk. It is important to remember that these meats can be higher in saturated fats and then are cooked in a way that produces carcinogens.
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In urging cancer survivors to reduce their red-meat intake, the American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend more of a plant-based diet.
Lammersfeld explains; “There are many healthier alternatives to grilling meats. Grilling veggies and fruit do not produce dangerous compounds. Lentils, beans and soy products are also a wonderful source of protein. If you are not used to these foods, try to incorporate one vegetarian meal into your diet a week, and increase it from there.”
If you still plan to grill meats, Lammersfeld offers these tips:
- Thaw the meat before cooking.
- Bake at a low temperature indoors, then finish it off on the grill.
- Marinate the meat ahead of time to reduce the amount carcinogens formed in the grilling process.
- Use small portions of low-fat cuts of meat.
- Avoid flattening burgers when you cook them, and flip them more frequently.
- Cook all meats on top of foil or in a foil package.
- Grill at the lowest temperatures possible to avoid charring.
- Avoid eating the charred parts if you cannot avoid charring the food.