Transcript: Reducing Cancer Risk in Meat-Eaters
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
The cooked meat carcinogens implicated in promoting the initiation, 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 and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are chemicals formed when the muscles of mammals, fish, or birds are cooked by high-temperature methods, such as pan-frying or barbecuing.
And, in chicken, we just found out the temperature doesn’t have to be that high. Just baking at about 350 for 15 minutes leads to significant production of heterocyclic amines, including PHiP. So, it’s not just frying, and grilling, and barbecuing.
These cooked meat carcinogens have also recently been associated with increased risk of kidney cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer—which is not a cancer we want to get. How do we decrease our exposure to these potent mutagens? Well, fried bacon and fish are the worst. Interestingly, chicken without skin had higher mutagen levels than with skin, which may act “as an insulating layer for the meat.”
Now, medium rare is less mutagenic than well done, which may be why women in the Iowa Women’s Health Study who consumed meat very well done appeared to have nearly five times higher risk for breast cancer than that of women who consumed meat “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 mutagenic, compared to eating meat cooked at higher temperatures—meaning you have less DNA-damaging substances flowing through your bloodstream, and coming in contact with your colon.
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