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Marinating Meat May Provide Cancer Protection

Researchers from Kansas State University say that marinating meat for one hour before grilling can reduce the production of a carcinogenic compound called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).

HCAs form when muscle meats like beef or chicken are cooked at high temperatures. The amino acids in the meat combined with creatine (a chemical in muscles) and react at high temperatures to form the carcinogens. Researchers have found 17 different HCAs that may pose human cancer risk.

Four factors influence the formation of HCAs, type of food, temperature, cooking method and time. Temperature is the most important factor and one study showed that increasing cooking temperatures from 392ºF to 482ºF resulted in three times more HCAs.

In this recent study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Food Science, researchers tested three different marinades to asses their ability to inhibit the production of HCAs.

Researchers marinated beef round steaks in either a Caribean, Southwest or herb marinade for one hour. Each steak, along with a control that was not marinated was cooked at 400ºF over a grill.

All three marinades showed a decrease in the production of HCAs. The Carribean mix was the best, resulting in an 88% decrease in HCAs when compared to the control. The herb marinade showed a 72% reduction while the Southwest mix had a 57% decrease.

According to researchers, the decrease in HCAs was likely attributed to the antioxidant content and polyphenols from herbs in the marinades.

One way to protect yourself from HCAs that occur when grilling meat is to precook them at a lower temperature using an oven - or in a microwave - and then grill briefly for taste. In fact, one study showed that microwaving meat for two minutes prior to cooking resulted in a 90% decrease in HCA content.

Journal of Food Science Volume 73 Issue 6, Pages T100 - T105
J.S. SMITH 1 , F. AMERI 1 , and P. GADGIL 1
Effect of Marinades on the Formation of Heterocyclic Amines in Grilled Beef Steaks
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