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Carcinogens in the Smell of Frying Bacon

Frying bacon outdoors decreases the concentration of airborne nitrosamine carcinogens.

March 1, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Renee Comet for the National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia commons and anemptygun.

Transcript

The level of nitrosamines in bacon is so high that these carcinogens have been discovered even in the vapours from fried bacon—you know than smell of frying bacon that everyone loves so much? Well, one of the more potent carcinogenic nitrosamines is in those fumes. You're breathing it in.

In fact if you are going to cook something like bacon and eggs the barbeque people have the right idea—do it outdoors in the fresh air. The amount of deposited particles deep into the lung of an individual indoors exceeded by up to 10 times the amount received by an individual at the same time period outdoors. which ends up depositing significantly fewer particles in your lungs, compared to cooking indoors.

Just don’t run around or play Frisbee or anything near the grill, as the number of deposited particles significantly increases with exercise, just because you’re inhaling greater lung volumes.

It's like the second-hand smoke of the meat world.

What about tempeh bacon? Tempeh is probably the closest plant-based thing to cured meat; it’s a fermented soybean product. Airborne mutagens produced by frying beef, pork and a soy-based food. What did they find?

Airborne cooking by-products from frying burgers, bacon and tempeh, were collected, extracted, and tested for mutagenicity, the ability to damage and mutate DNA. The fumes generated by frying pork and beef were mutagenic, especially the bacon—found 15 times worse than the beef, but no mutagenicity was detected in fumes from frying tempeh burgers.

The researchers suggest that this may explain both the increased risk of respiratory tract cancer among cooks as well as the lower proportion of deaths from respiratory diseases and lung cancer among vegetarians.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

For more on the dangers of processed meats, see yesterday’s video, When Nitrites Go Bad and Bacon and Botulism. For more comparisons between meat and veggie meats, see Chicken vs. Veggie Chicken, What Is Really in Hot Dogs? and Carcinogens in Roasted Coffee. And for more on… more, enjoy the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance, Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel SyndromeIs Caffeinated Tea Really Dehydrating?, and Heading Shrinking from Grilling Meat

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    For more on the dangers of processed meats, see yesterday’s video, When Nitrites Go Bad and Bacon and Botulism. For more comparisons between meat and veggie meats, see Chicken vs. Veggie Chicken, What Is Really in Hot Dogs? and Carcinogens in Roasted Coffee. And for more on… more, enjoy the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jmboss/ jmboss

    Curious about a study like this on frying fish.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance!

  • Food Pharmacist

    Would you know what are the chemical substates responsible for the sometimes strong, foul odor of frying bacon or recently the sauteing of bratwurst?

  • Laloofah

    I thought you might find this interesting:

    SF Bacon Restaurant Must Close Due to Aroma Issue

    If only they knew. (This is an article where the admonishment not to read the comments is a good one, though I admit were I on FB I would be tempted to leave a comment with just a link to this article!)

  • Joe

    I gave up bacon a long time ago – but I’d like to play devils advocate and ask about organic untreated bacon – because often people say to me that their bacon is fine because it’s organic, pastured and not preserved with nitrites.

    I am thinking that problems may arise from exotoxins from the bacteria, and contaminants in the fat – but:

    What are the main reasons you would avoid organic, untreated bacon?