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Reducing Cancer Risk In Meateaters

Those who eat meat risk food poisoning from undercooked meat, but also exposure to cooked meat carcinogens in well-cooked meat. By boiling meat, non-vegetarians can mediate their risk of both.

January 21, 2013 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to thetejonAustin Keys and Paul-W / Flickr

 

Transcript

The cooked meat carcinogens implicated in the promoting the cause, growth and spread of breast cancer, may also increase the risk of prostate cancer. The mechanism through which the consumption of well-done meat may increase prostate cancer risk is via the release of mutagenic compounds during cooking, the heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are chemicals formed when the muscles of mammals, fish, or birds, are cooked by high temperature methods such as pan frying or barbequing. And in chicken the temp doesn't have to be that high. Just baking at about 350 for 15 minutes leads to significant production of the heterocyclic amine phip. These cooked meat carcinogens are also associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer, which is not a cancer you want to get. How do you decrease your exposure to these potent mutagens? Well, fried bacon and fish are the worst, though given the popularity of skinless chicken breast that might lead to the greatest exposure. Now medium rare has less than well done, which may be why women who consumed meat very well done, seemed to have nearly 5 times higher risk for breast cancer than that of women who consumed their meats rare or medium done. But this raises the so-called paradox of preparing meat noted by the Harvard Health Letter. Well-cooked and you risk cancer, undercooked and risk e. coli. Eating boiled meat—not broiled, but boiled in water--is probably the safest. If you eat meat that never goes above 212 degrees Fahrenheit, both your urine and feces are significantly less DNA damaging compared to eating meat dry cooked at higher temperatures, meaning you have less mutagenic substances flowing through your blood stream and coming in contact with your colon.

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 Jonathan Hodgson.

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

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

I've previously mentioned the E. coli or cancer conundrum in my video Carcinogens in Roasted Chicken? Animal products may also increase prostate cancer risk through other mechanisms (see The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle and Cancer Reversal Through Diet?). More on pancreatic cancer in Largest Study Ever.

A similar study where they compared the excretion of carcinogens formed in processed meats can be found in Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat.

Those eating out may find my video Fast Food Tested for Carcinogens useful, where chicken items from seven restaurant chains were tested for heterocyclic amines to see which was worse—the answer may surprise you.

Oh, and if there are carcinogens in roasted chicken, what about roasted coffee? See Carcinogens in Roasted Coffee? and Coffee and Cancer.

In last Wednesday's video Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens I showed that these cooked meat carcinogens may stimulate breast cancer cell growth nearly as much as pure estrogen. In my last video PhIP: The Three Strikes Breast Carcinogen I showed that these chemicals may promote breast cancer invasiveness even more than estrogen. In the next video, Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine?, I'll explore how even those eating vegetarian may be exposed to these compounds.

Please also check out my associated blog posts for more context:  Avoid Cooked Meat Carcinogens and Foods That May Block Cancer Formation

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=601976591 Ellen Kessler

    Please don’t give meat eaters an excuse to keep eating dead animals.

    • Joe

      I actually believe this is one of Dr. Gregor’s strong points. He is presenting science that helps people survive, regardless of their belief system. It is vitally important not to take sides, and to present the information as it is – and to let people make up their own minds. Better a well-informed meat eater who finally decides to go vegan than someone who just continues to eat meat because they think these types of videos are biased.

      • pi2r2

        Gregor’s strong point is that he provides good research reports. He doesn’t think things through, however, and the reports in themselves micro inform.

    • pi2r2

      Please enlighten people, meat eaters and vegan alike.

  • Marge

    With all the evidence about the harm of animal products, I just can’t understand how anyone can continue to eat it. Thank you, Dr. Greger for getting this information out there. But so many just don’t want to listen.

    • Massimo

      Because they live to eat instead of eating to live. How many times have I heard a sentence like “we all will die, soon or later”, or “I’d prefer to die than to refrain from eating what I like”? They are governed by their stomach, not their brain. And then they pretend they are superior to the animals they eat….

      • pi2r2

        Speak for yourself.

  • nelson

    Meat eaters don’t want to be bothered by being shown that the science has been in for the last 50 years. Paleo dieters put the DIE in diet.

    • pi2r2

      Speak for yourself.

  • Alicia (Vegan Epicurean)

    Great info Dr. G as always. :-)

  • Robert

    Boy that boiling pot of sausage looks appetizing…not.

  • Lori

    What about steaming your meat. Is that a better way of cooking?

  • Billy B

    Mmmm Tofurky Sausages for dinner tonight. Yum

  • Dee

    The argument my meat-eating relative always comes back with is that meat from grass-fed animals is somehow used differently by the body and is therefore not detrimental to your health. Does she have any real scientific basis for this claim?

    • Marge

      Dee, I always hear that, too. I’m tired of hearing that excuse for eating meat! I think it is a very poor and invalid excuse to keep eating it. Like Dr. McDougall says, “People like to hear good things about their bad habits.”

    • Anne

      The best way u can answer that one, without getting too ‘sciency’ is to use basic chemistry principles. Most people only take non organic chemistry and apply the principles found there to our organic world. i.e. thinking that melting or heating something is a physical change rather than a chemical change. With substances such as metals and water, for instance, this is true. This is not true, however, in the organic realm. When you cook meat it undergoes a chemical change. Now visualize eating something with DNA, where the DNA is now damaged and the protein structure is degraded. So what the animal eats doesn’t change the fact that it is flesh that contains DNA and our body will recognize the similarities, which means the good and the bad. (degraded DNA)

      Note: I am not a chemist, I am just a layperson trying to sum up what my husband explained to me who is a physicist, so if there’s errors or someone with a better background can expand on it please do!

      • pi2r2

        Same is true for greens.

    • Thea

      Dee: I hope Toxins jumps in here as s/he has answered this question other times on this site and has some good answers.

      I don’t have all the details to the answer to this question off of the top of my head, but I can repeat some of what I remember. For example, if you watch one of the bonus features at the end of the movie Forks Over Knives, the doctor talks about the issue of grass-fed animals. He says something like: There may be some minor benefits to eating grass-fed over factor farmed animals, but it does not make that flesh a health product. It is just a little less bad. One of my favorite metaphors is from (I think) Dr. Greger: Just because Coca Cola has water in it (and yes, water is very good for you) does not make Coke a health food.

      But in what ways is grass-fed animal flesh bad for our health? There are so many. You still have cholesterol. You still have “endotoxins, xenoestrogens, increases in igf-1 and arachidonic acid. All are inherent components of meat whether organic or conventional.” (I found one of Toxin’s replies.) You can look these subjects up on this site/NutritionFacts and see how very harmful these are – and are inherent in that grass-fed stuff that some people think is just so healthy. It’s not.

      Does that help?

      • pi2r2

        Doctors are usually the last to know very much about nutrition. Day, Clark, Mercola, LEF.organic; now Gregor is exploring but not very comprehensive in his fact hammer approach.

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      Just a couple of comments to add to Thea’s excellent post with kudo’s to Toxins as well. Just tell them we are designed as “hind gut fermenting herbivores” alot of data to support the anatomy and physiology of this hypothesis. Beyond that meat from grass fed animals also contains saturated fat which is metabolized to cholesterol and dioxins… see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/dioxins-in-the-food-supply/… which are in the air as a product of burning plastics. It is true that grass fed animal meat is healthier then animals via CAFO’s but that doesn’t make it healthy. They may hit you with a similar argument about fish which is even easier to address see video… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/farmed-fish-vs-wild-caught-2/.

      • Thea

        Dr Forrester: Thanks for chiming in! I had remembered you writing something like this in the past, but I didn’t copy it at that time. Now I have your thoughts too for when this repeat question comes up again. :-)

      • pi2r2

        Facts do not intelligent make.

    • Joe

      There is a simple answer. Some of the problems are related to CAFO raising, but some are related to the intrinsic nature of meat.

      In grass fed meat, there is still no vitamin C, still no fibre, still no phytochemicals and masses less antioxidants.

      You still have lots of hormones, even with organic. You still have carnitine creating inflammation in the arteries (remember the study on here where they used carnitine supplements?) and there is still the problem of excess protein causing rising blood urea levels and stress on the kidneys. There is still the IGF-1 problem, and still the exotoxin problem from bacteria.

      And now you have the problems mentioned in this video.

      There are benefits to eating meat, but they do not outweigh the risks, and they are benefits that can be achieved from plants sources.

      • pi2r2

        That’s why one fact is not enough, which is generally the trouble with Dr. Gerger’s fact bomb approach. A person still needs vitamins and variety to achieve good health.

    • pi2r2

      Yes, pasture raised free range raised is very different from toxic artificial confined animal feeding operations.

  • nauta

    How about grilled veggies?

    • LynnCS

      Grilling creates carcinogens.

  • Karl

    I’m a big fan of Dr. Greger (and a vegan) and appreciate the information he provides in these videos. But it’s a little dispiriting in this post modern age to see so many self proclaimed experts spouting authoritatively on why we should be eating boiled meat, raw meat, organ meat,… you name it. And there’s often a paper in some obscure journal that can be misinterpreted to support most any crazy nutritional claim. Any given person you talk to will attach nutritional significance to whichever of these catches their fancy at the moment. And it doesn’t seem to matter to them that they had a completely different view last week; they have now discovered the real truth. As a retired scientist I appreciate the fairly straightforward reporting of research results that is provided by Dr. Greger, albeit with a bias, though one which seems well justified given previous evidence. But what is frustrating is that it seems that in todays world this evidence is viewed as just another unsupported opinion in a sea of identical opinions from which to choose. Certainly this situation greatly benefits a lot of economic interests, but it would be nice if this ghettoization of nutritional opinion could be overcome and there were some sort of central public square type entity where these ideas could be debated openly (and intelligently !) with some sort of publicly determined moderation so that people could have some common basis for discussing these ideas.

    • pi2r2

      Your conundrum comes from listening to only Greger for information. See Mercola and other researchers.

      • Toxins

        Mercola runs a for profit nutrition business, and has no interest in disseminating fad from fact. This is evident with his tubs of coconut oil he sells and his love for raw milk.

        • pi2r2

          So does Greger. Test your information.

          • Toxins

            Dr. Greger runs nutritionfacts.org non profit. Nothing is being sold here, and the studies are accurately presented.

          • pi2r2

            He most certainly has income from his lectures, website and videos. Non-profits have operating expenses, too, you know.

  • Joe

    Dr. Greger, I emailed you a few weeks ago with my question and you suggested I post it to a relevant video on the site so it could be discussed publicly. Here is my situation again:

    I went vegan after a friend referred me to this site. However, as I already have celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and a related intolerance called fructose malabsorption, the diet was extremely restrictive. I can’t eat wheat, barley, rye, oats (unless the oats are certified gluten free – not grown in wheat-contaminated farming area), seitan or most meat substitutes. Low fructose diet means most fruits are out. Beans seem to be ok in very small amounts but too high in fructose to be one of my main protein sources. I tried that and I’ve been paying the price for weeks. Onions are deadly. Even some basic vegetables like peppers, string beans, and carrots are too sweet for my stomach to tolerate. Very little is known about fructose malabsorption presently.

    I can eat nuts and soy products as far as I know, but I’ve had to go back to eating meat and even some dairy because I just can’t eat enough if I don’t. In addition to boiling meat, what are some other techniques I could use to be healthier if I must eat animal products?

    Is there a way to eat more plant-based with my dietary restrictions?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      Gluten Intolerance and fructose malabsorption both… that does make it harder to know what to eat. It makes it especially hard when dealing with conditions that are poorly studied. I would base your diet around starches such as potatoes, rice and gluten free whole grains. I would try that route in lieu of meats and dairy. I would also stay away from GMO foods as they might contain BT toxin. If you consume adequate calories there is no way you can not get enough protein. The best articles I have seen on protein were done by Dr. McDougall and can be viewed free in his monthly newsletter see articles in 12/03 and 4/07.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurie.bateman.9 Laurie Bateman

    Dr. Greger seems to be presenting all the nutritional science, including how meateaters can eat safer, which is good, since most of us still have meat and dairy family members we love …

    • pi2r2

      All is a lot. No one does it all.

  • Joe

    Dr. Greger, I emailed you a few weeks ago with my question and you suggested I post it to a relevant video on the site so it could be discussed publicly. Here is my situation again:

    I went vegan after a friend referred me to this site. However, as I already have celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and a related intolerance called fructose malabsorption, the diet was extremely restrictive. I can’t eat wheat, barley, rye, oats (unless the oats are certified gluten free – not grown in wheat-contaminated farming area), seitan or most meat substitutes. Low fructose diet means most fruits are out. Beans are ok in very small amounts but too high in fructose to be one of my main protein sources. I tried that and I’ve been paying the price for weeks. Onions are deadly. Even some basic vegetables like peppers, string beans, and carrots are too sweet for my stomach to tolerate.

    I can eat nuts and soy products as far as I know, but I’ve had to go back to eating meat and even some dairy because I just can’t eat enough if I don’t. In addition to boiling meat, what are some other techniques I could use to be healthier if I must eat animal products?

    Is there a way to eat more plant-based with my dietary restrictions?

    • Veganrunner

      Joe have you tried all the squashes? They are higher in calories. We have similar diet restrictions except the fruit. Maybe once your gut heals you will be able to add more fruit into your diet.

      • Joe

        Squash is no good according to the lists I’ve seen. Even if I’m feeling better fruit is a tricky thing. I was completely healed then got completely sick again from eating more planty.

        • Veganrunner

          No good for your fructose intolerance? Like you said. Nuts and vegetables I guess. Rice? Quinoa?

          • Joe

            That may be my only option. I just won’t be able to go totally animal-free. I was just trying to figure out if there were any techniques besides boiling that could make meat a little better for the body.

          • Joe

            If you are getting a good whack of phytochemicals with your meat, that should negate some of the problems. Have you tried juicing? I found juicing vegetables to be really good for my digestive system. I did a juice fast for 10 days, then re-introduced foods and my digestion worked really well after. A little kale and carrot juice with your meat?

            Another thing you could try is to boost your probiotic levels. When I was having dairy I used to make my own kefir.

            Maybe there is a specialist that you can see to put you on a diet to resolve these problems so that you can re-introduce certain foods back in? Perhaps try the GAPS diet for a while?

            At any rate, don’t beat yourself up about going vegan. Do what you have to do to regain your health. If that means meat based for a while then so be it. Don’t lose hope however of getting your intolerances healed – then when you are in good shape you can think about the vegan issue.

    • pi2r2

      Organic and non-GMO have more bearing on yourpredicamentthen than

  • SEishen

    What about using a slow cooker?

  • Mmmeat

    What about sous vide?

  • John

    So if I boil the meat and then fry it, will that reduce the risk?

  • ray

    What a joke…
    Evidence this, evidence that..
    What about all the other risks that may take ur. Life. Such as walking down the street , driving a car, guns, pets and so forth???
    In the end, we all die! Dt think a small change will keep u alive forever- as there is no such thing! Enjoy ur life while u can ;-)
    Cheers

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      You are correct… we all die and the issue is quality of life. Howver, nutrition can help delay death and also importantly has been linked to the top 10 causes for disability in this country. In my clinical experience I have been very impressed by the improvement in the quality of life in my patients who have changed to eat a whole food plant based diet with Vitamin B12 supplements.

      • Curious

        It does not make sense to me that suddenly cancer is caused by meat when cancer is relatively new and meat is relatively old. There is more to this, I do believe. People have always eaten meat. People have not always gotten cancer. I think perhaps we should focus more on chemical toxins in water, food, vaccines, fake hormones, drugs, the air….even people who do not eat meat have to deal with those.

        • Toxins

          The quantity of animal products consumed today is far more then what can be expected from our past. Studies indicate animal products to be the main culprit, and you will find this countless times through studies shared in this site.
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/paleolithic-lessons/

          • pi2r2

            Stop relying on nutritionfacts for all your information. Get around a little.

        • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

          You are right it is not just the meat. However as Toxins points out the amount consumed has gone up a great deal. Dr. Campbell’s and others work has linked animal protein especially casein to the initiation and growth of cancer cells. Most of the carcinogenic substances are fat soluble and the highest exposure is via animal products. In addition to more meat americans are consuming less plants which can have a protective effect through fiber and phytochemicals. You might be interested in videos on dioxin the most carcinogenic chemical in the environment: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/dioxins-in-the-food-supply/ and http://nutritionfacts.org/video/plants-vs-pesticides/.

          • pi2r2

            Stop relying on nutritionfacts for all your information.

        • pi2r2

          Thank you, Curious. You are thinking.

    • pi2r2

      Thank you, Ray, you are thinking. A little more research can show that vitamins, exercise and avoidance of toxins and genetically engineered foods and other processed foods can improve quality of life and longevity.

  • irene g

    If carcinogens in meat become present after heat-related cooking methods (except boiling) what about, in reference to fish, CEVICHE style?
    Better? Bad? Worst? Thanks.