How to stop your barbecue from becoming a cancer trap

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The warm weather always brings images of relaxing around a BBQ with family and friends, with a cold drink in your hand.

Scientists have raised concerns about barbecues stating that barbecued poultry, fish or meat could cause cancer.

Is this something to worry about?

Over the past few years, research has found that cooking meat over an open flame increases our expose to PAHs and HCAs which are cancer-causing carcinogens. These carcinogens can cause damage to our genetic DNA, which could result in stomach, liver, skin and other forms of cancer.

A study undertaken by Minnesota University, US researchers found that people who ate well-done meat cooked at very high temperatures were 60% more likely to suffer from pancreatic cancer.

This high risk applies to other high-heat cooking methods, such as grilling and frying, but PAHs and HCAs are caused when there is a combination of direct flame and smoke which comes into contact with the food, hence barbecuing poses a higher risk.

Research which has been published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry states that pouring your beer over the meat may eliminate the carcinogens.

Researchers based in Portugal have found that marinating the meat in beer decreases the cancer-causing compound level by about 53%.

To prevent turning your barbecue into a health risk, you should consider the following:

• Lower your gas grill temperature to avoid burning the meat which will reduce the formation of dangerous carcinogenic compounds. Obtaining a barbecue with a temperature control facility will aid in this

• Make use of a smokeless barbecue which has a battery-assisted fan to stop smoke and the inhalation of carcinogens

• Choose leaner meat types and trim all fact before you start grilling to limit flame flare-ups and dripping

• Marinate your meat as this will create a barrier between the formation of HCAs and the meat

• Switch from meat to seafood. Seafood requires shorter cooking periods which reduces your expose to grill flames and generally forms less HCAs

• Avoid processed foods which are full of preservatives

• Flip the meat on a regular basis to reduce carcinogens

• Reduce the grill time by pan-searing or oven roasting, or select smaller portions, such as kebabs that do not require as much cooking time

• Clean your grill after each use to avoid the transfer of chemicals from one meal to the next

If you are quite happy about your current barbecue methods, you should at least pick off any burnt parts of your food before you eat it.

Image Credit: Christopher Craig

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About Author

Robert Wiltshire

Robert is a part-time writer and enjoys screen writing when his schedule allows. A keen writer, Robert graduated in 2002 from Warwick University with a 2:1 in Creative Writing. Hobbies include; Mountain Biking, Keeping Fit and Cooking

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