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July 19, 2005

Want A Better And Safer Burger? Add Rosemary

Topics: Health Issues

When you're grilling a hamburger, you're 'cooking up' known carcinogens, and you're not getting away from the problem by switching to chicken or fish. But here are some ways to reduce the risk while making your food taste better:

(HealthDay News) -- Fire up the grill, and don't forget the rosemary: New research finds that adding a bit of the herb extract to hamburgers cuts down on levels of a known carcinogen.

Kansas State University food chemistry professor J. Scott Smith found that rosemary can reduce levels of compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) in grilled hamburgers. HCAs are produced in protein-rich muscle foods that have been barbequed, grilled, broiled or fried. Epidemiological studies have linked HCAs to various cancers.

"Rosemary is a hot antioxidant right now. It's real popular," Smith said in a prepared statement.

Smith measured HCA levels in ground beef patties after the patties were fortified with two antioxidants extracted from rosemary -- rosmarinic acid and carnoisic acid(they really mean carnosic acid).

He found that the extracts reduced two HCA compounds when the patties were cooked at 375 and 400 degrees F. Levels of two other HCA compounds were not reduced, however.

More studies are being be done to determine if levels of those two HCA compounds can be reduced by adjusting the cooking temperature, he said.

"We're going to continue this line of research and try to narrow down some of the chemicals in some of the spices, because they're loaded with antioxidants," Smith said.

But grilling a hamburger isn't the only way to cook up carcinogens. You do the same with chicken. Have you ever heard of 'Heterocyclic amines(HCAs)'?
A good dose will give a rat cancer within weeks. Like your steak charred on the outside? How about a nice grilled salmon? Sound good? Read on.

(...) Heterocyclic amines are brought to us by the same chemistry that gave us free radicals, and they're just about as welcome. These little molecules are created when heat breaks up amino acids and creatinine. High heat is the worst. HCAs are not free radicals themselves, but they provoke them. And they do things just as bad or worse. There's a bunch of different types, and researchers are beginning to think that these little devils are one reason meat-eaters are at risk for certain types of cancer. HCAs cause DNA mutations, especially in the colon. The liver and breasts are other well-studied targets for HCAs, but any organ is susceptible.

(...) if you grill chicken without marinating it first, it not only tastes lousy, it has a lot more HCAs. In what must be a scientific first, however, it was reported that a mixture of olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice and salt protects grilled chicken against HCAs. The first time they tried this, one of the backyard scientists added brown sugar and messed the whole thing up. Sugar forms a special type of amine when it's cooked at high heat.


(...) researchers in Hawaii held a good, old-fashioned luau in the name of science, and threw in some special, ethnic marinade recipes. They didn't mess around; they used beefsteak. They found that an overnight soak in teriyaki sauce not only gave it that extra oomph, but produced the added feature of reducing HCA content by about 50%. Turmeric/garlic sauce created a similar effect....

(...) Bottled honey barbeque sauce was a downer: it substantially increased amines.

(...) a group at the National Cancer Institute went the breakfast route. They cooked up pork chops, sausage, bacon and ham. Broiling meat doesn't seem to create much of an amine problem. Pan-frying, however, is amine city. Ham got off the hook, having few amines, and links didn't do too bad. But bacon was bad news.

(...) A group at the University of Minnesota reports that women who eat very well-done hamburgers have a 50% greater risk of breast cancer than women who eat them rare or medium. Women who consistently eat well-done steak, hamburgers and bacon have a 4.62 times increased risk of breast cancer.

Learn more ...

More information:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers advice about safe meat preparation.

Posted by Hyscience at July 19, 2005 8:36 AM

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