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Strong, New Carcinogenic Compounds Discovered in Grilled Meats

Strong, New Carcinogenic Compounds Discovered in Grilled Meats

We’ve been hearing about the various risks involved in eating grilled meat for a while; cancer, heart disease, accidental ingestion of wire bristles from grill-cleaning brushes (we kid you not). But now researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a new risk; compounds that are hundreds of times more mutagenic – meaning that they can cause DNA damage in cells that in turn can cause cancer – than their parent compounds which are known carcinogens.

The parent compounds, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are a large group of chemicals that are produced during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or grilled meat.

What the researchers discovered is that when PAHs become nitrated by chemically interacting with nitrogen, their mutagenicity increases. When these nitrated PAHs (called NPAHs) interact with one nitrogen group, the mutagenicity can increase six to 432 times more than the parent compound. NPAHs based on two nitrogen groups can be 272 to 467 times more mutagenic.

These compounds were not previously known to exist, and raise additional concerns about the health impacts of heavily-polluted urban air or dietary exposure, notes a statement about the research.

“Some of the compounds that we’ve discovered are far more mutagenic than we previously understood, and may exist in the environment as a result of heavy air pollution from vehicles or some types of food preparation,” said Staci Simonich, a professor of chemistry and toxicology in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We don’t know at this point what levels may be present, and will explore that in continued research,” she said.

Photo: senk/Shutterstock

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Read more: Basics, Eating for Health, Food, Health, , , , ,

article by Melissa Breyer

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77 comments

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6:14AM PDT on Mar 27, 2014

I'm too old to change my ways now. I would rather have grilled food any day of the week over any other way of cooking it.

11:26PM PST on Jan 25, 2014

Agreed Pamela W, I have grilled red peppers and all sorts of things such as Portobello mushrooms without the taste of starter fluid. As you said, stress is a big problem too, if one worries about everything under the sun, endlessly and constantly, we won't have any good times since one will always be on Red Alert for this or that. Do things in moderation and that always helps. I also love camping and cooking outside.

Winter is a time to BQQ, even when cold outside. If one is at the BBQ, it can be a bit frosty but one can certainly always dress warmly. The snow plow is going by yet again.

7:23PM PST on Jan 24, 2014

I never liked grilled food. It always tasted like the starter fluid and was always burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. Disgusting.

8:55AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Whatever you say, grilling is still much better than FRYING (DEEP FAT or otherwise) !!! For the past 50 years or so there has ALWAYS been something labelled as "dangerous" to eat/drink .... but we're all still here - long after the "fad" to avoid these things has come and gone !!! Stress is as big a killer as most of these things ... and worrying about "anything and everything" causes stress !!! Ease off a bit and LIVE your life - the end of it is inevitable anyway !!!

8:33AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Thank you for the information

8:12AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

That's no surprise!

7:25AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

4:37AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Don't overdo anything

3:32AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Thanks for sharing!

2:57AM PST on Jan 24, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

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