Add BBQ, grilled meat, broiled and pan-fried meat to the list of carcinogens reported the Washington Post on Nov. 9. In October, the World Health Organization said processed meats–hot dogs, bacon, ham, lunch meat–are as carcinogenic as cigarettes and asbestos. Now a National Institutes of Health study found that BBQ and pan-fried meat are linked to kidney cancer. WHO has already connected all red meat to bowel cancer and the list of reasons not to eat red meat just keeps getting longer, it seems.
So what’s the problem with BBQ and pan-fried meat? The study, published in the medical journal Cancer, compared genetic data from 659 patients newly diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and 699 healthy patients. There were five key take-aways from the research. First, those with kidney cancer ate more red meat. Next, the way meat is cooked is linked to kidney cancer. The act of cooking meat over an open flame, or at a high temperature–such as by grill, BBQ, broiler or pan-fried methods–creates carcinogens in itself. Meat-cooking mutagens are created in barbecued and grilled meat, broiled and pan-fried meat. These cooking techniques cause two carcinogens to form: 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo(4,5-b) pyridine (PhIP) and amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f) quinoxaline (MeIQx).
Eating large amounts of BBQ, broiled, grilled and pan-fried meat does just increase the risk of cancer a little. It knocks it out of the ball park. The study showed a 54 percent increased risk associated with consuming PhIP carcingens a whopping 200 percent increase from ingested MeIQx carcinogens. The study also found that genetics could make you more or less susceptible to grilled meat carcinogens Researchers found that patients with variants of the gene, ITPR2–previously associated with kidney cancer–may be more vulnerable to developing kidney cancer from eating grilled meat carcinogens.
So does this research mean you should stop eating red meat? No, surprisingly it didn’t. The researchers echo American Cancer Society advice that people consume meats, including red meat. But the key is moderation: people should eat meat as part of a well-balanced diet. But that diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables–foods the majority of people don’t eat enough of. Meat should also be eaten in recommended daily allowance quantities and serving sizes. The RDA is 2 servings of meat or protein daily. A serving of meat is 3-4 ounces–that’s half to one third of the serving sizes in restaurants. Many people eat 2-6 times the amount of meat they should be eating. And the problem is made worse by the fact that many people eat grilled meat thinking it’s healthier than other cooking forms.
But there is a way to avoid carcinogens from broiled or grilled meat and that is in the cooking process. Study authors suggested to cook meat till done, but not charred. Will people stop eating broiled meats to prevent kidney cancer? Judging by the grilling the WHO got for saying bacon and hot dogs are as carcingenic as cigarettes, it’s doubtful. Many people declared they would eat as much processed meat as before, maybe more. So it’s unlikely the kidney cancer study will reduce the BBQs, tailgate parties and steak frys, either.