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Can grilling meats increase your risk of certain cancers?

Lethia Lee EFNEP Program Assistant

May 10, 2014

Cooking meats at very high temperatures whether it’s grilling, searing in a frying pan or broiling, causes amino acids in beef, pork, poultry and fish to form chemicals known as heterocyclic amines (HCA’s). Other chemicals that can form when fat drips into the hot grill coals may be deposited back into the meat by smoke or flare-ups. Studies have found that all these chemicals cause cancer in lab animals and may increase cancer risk in humans.


Some evidence suggests that your risk may be due partly to how long you cook the meat and that people who eat charred, very well done meat may be at higher risk than those who eat it less well done, or not at all.


Try to limit your consumption of grilled or fried meats, and avoid charring meat or eating parts that are burned or black, which have the highest amounts of HCA’s. Line the grill with foil, and poke small holes to prevent smoke from returning to the meat while allowing fat to drip away.


To cut down on grill time, pre-cook the meat in a microwave for a few minutes before grilling it (pour off any liquid that forms during microwaving). You can also roast or bake the meat at a lower temperature.


My advice is to cut back on grilled or fried meats. Grill soy-based or other vegetables with burgers, substitute grilled vegetables or fruits for part of the meat in your meal, or cook small portions of meat with fruits and vegetables in skewers. If you must eat meat, choose lean cuts, and trim any excess fat.


Brief walks after meals may help reduce diabetes risk. Getting regular exercise is associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood glucose control in patients with type 2 Diabetes. Now, a study suggests that taking short walks after eating may help older adults lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


According to researchers, study participants who walked at an easy to moderate pace for 15 minutes on a treadmill after eating a meal were less likely to have elevated blood glucose levels than those who didn’t walk. The researches also found that taking short walks three times a day following meals was as effective at reducing blood glucose as taking a 45-minute walk a day. The study participants, who were over age 60, were considered to be at risk for type 2 Diabetes because they had elevated fasting blood glucose levels and got insufficient physical activity. The study results were published online June 11, 2013, in the journal Diabetes Care.


Your blood glucose levels are generally highest after you have eaten, since that is when your body is breaking down and transporting glucose, along with the other nutrients in your food. As you get older, your body may have more difficulty processing glucose due to increased insulin resistance in your muscles and/or slow insulin secretion from your pancreas, leaving a greater amount of glucose in your blood and increasing the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.


Source of information is from Women’s Health advisor and Men’s Health Advisor.


For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.