Carcinogens in Roasted Chicken?

Carcinogens in Roasted Chicken?
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Our bodies are less efficient at detoxifying heterocyclic amines—carcinogens formed from cooked muscle tissue—than once believed.

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That’s why we have to cook the crap out of them—literally. But seventy years ago, a Swedish researcher first reported that feeding mice roasted horse muscles caused cancer. This “cancer-producing substance” has since been identified. Heterocyclic amines are “the carcinogenic chemicals formed from the cooking of muscles…such as beef, pork, [poultry], and fish,” created when the building blocks of muscles react to high heat—roasting, frying, grilling, barbecuing. Seventeen different such carcinogens have so far been discovered in cooked meats.

And the National Cancer Institute goes on to explain how people eating meat well-done appear to have higher cancer risk than those eating meat cooked rare. So we’re kind of damned if we do, damned if we don’t, because, you know, we’re not supposed to eat meat rare any more, because of the risk of food poisoning. So, it’s like we can take our pick—cancer or E. coli.

The reason we’re so concerned these days about these cooked meat carcinogens is that last year, we learned that humans are much more susceptible than we thought. The prior research was done on rats, and rodents have this uncanny ability to detoxify 99% of the heterocyclic amines we stuff down their throats. But last year, we discovered that the human liver can detoxify only 50% of the carcinogens we get from eating cooked chicken, for example.

So, instead of 1% getting into our system—based on rat studies—we now know 50% gets into our bloodstream. So now, we’re 50 times more concerned.

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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

That’s why we have to cook the crap out of them—literally. But seventy years ago, a Swedish researcher first reported that feeding mice roasted horse muscles caused cancer. This “cancer-producing substance” has since been identified. Heterocyclic amines are “the carcinogenic chemicals formed from the cooking of muscles…such as beef, pork, [poultry], and fish,” created when the building blocks of muscles react to high heat—roasting, frying, grilling, barbecuing. Seventeen different such carcinogens have so far been discovered in cooked meats.

And the National Cancer Institute goes on to explain how people eating meat well-done appear to have higher cancer risk than those eating meat cooked rare. So we’re kind of damned if we do, damned if we don’t, because, you know, we’re not supposed to eat meat rare any more, because of the risk of food poisoning. So, it’s like we can take our pick—cancer or E. coli.

The reason we’re so concerned these days about these cooked meat carcinogens is that last year, we learned that humans are much more susceptible than we thought. The prior research was done on rats, and rodents have this uncanny ability to detoxify 99% of the heterocyclic amines we stuff down their throats. But last year, we discovered that the human liver can detoxify only 50% of the carcinogens we get from eating cooked chicken, for example.

So, instead of 1% getting into our system—based on rat studies—we now know 50% gets into our bloodstream. So now, we’re 50 times more concerned.

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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on meat and carcinogens, check out these videos:

And check out the prequel: Fecal Residues on Chicken

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

11 responses to “Carcinogens in Roasted Chicken?

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  1. Dr. Greger, thanks for all the fantastic information. I’m in AU, and complained earlier this week to the local Cancer Council about their dietary suggestions that include meat. Would you be at all able to respond to any of their “key messages”:

    They seem to try awfully hard to find a way recommend meat, and I’d be grateful for any references to peer reviewed research, especially larger scale studies. I’m no scientist. :)

    FROM THE CANCER COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA:

    • The term ‘meat’ encompasses a variety of foods, including unprocessed red meat (beef, veal, pork
    and lamb), processed meat, poultry and fish. Processed meat differs from unprocessed red meat
    in that it may be cured with the addition of preservatives and/or other additives.
    • The relationship between meat consumption and the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer,
    has been controversial. The consumption of red meat and processed meat appears to be
    convincingly associated with a modest increased risk of colorectal cancer.
    • There is limited suggestive evidence that red meat may be associated with an increased risk of
    oesophageal, lung, pancreatic and endometrial cancer, and processed meat with oesophageal,
    lung, stomach and prostate cancer.
    • There does not appear to be a strong association between red meat or processed meat and the
    risk of other cancers.
    • There is insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions on poultry intake and cancer risk.
    • For fish consumption, there is limited but suggestive evidence that it may be linked to a reduced
    risk of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.
    • Despite the concerns about meat and cancer, Cancer Council recognises that lean red meat is an
    important contributor to dietary iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein in the Australian diet.
    • Cancer Council recommends people consume moderate amounts of unprocessed lean red meat.
    A moderate amount of meat is 65-100g of cooked red meat, 3-4 times a week




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    1. dplatter,
      Debates are always fun. Here is what you should do, do a search on nutritionfacts.org for “meat” or “cancer”, then go to every relevant video. Pull up the sources cited box and go to each study. Write to them a lengthy email quoting and explaining each study you listed with hyperlinks in an organized manner. There is a huge body of knowledge at your disposal! I have done with with dairy consumption and the consumption of oils, it is a really solid tactic.




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  2. Toxins, thanks for the comment. Who have you been debating?

    I’ve been trying follow your suggestion but I’m having trouble finding a real smoking gun. The website talk so much about the latest research, but I need something that’s shows conclusively that meet overall causes cancer in humans. but I’m keeping up my research and also going through some books that I have.




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    1. i debate nutritionist now and again. Well, for individual meat for example, cite arachadonic acid in chicken, cite the contaminants in fish, and cite the correlation with meat and degenerative diseases.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/meat-mortality/

      You wont find a study that concludes “Meat causes cancer”. There will be reactions or compounds found in meat that cause these diseases.




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  3. I cant believe how much chicken I was eating before I was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 months ago. I thought like many others chicken was the healthy protein. I have sinced been on a plant base diet, no chemo no radiation, and cancers cell either shrunk or gone. I have done this all on my own by doing research, such as watching all of Dr Greger’s videos, going to seminars and corresponding with others who are on the same jouney as I am. But it saddens me to watch people all around, like supermarkets, destroying their health by whats in their shopping carts. Does it have to be getting a disease to wake people up, like in my case?




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  4. Hi, so what? Is really bad to eat meat/chicken/fish or we just have smaller portions, and organic chicken? Do you suggest to become vegetarian?




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  5. It’s been hard for me to give up meat, but this type of info helps these early steps I’m taking. I find the longer I go with less meat, the harsher the reaction seems to eating the next bite. Unlike my more usual beans and veggies meals, with meat after the initial euphoria, I then get sleepy, then don’t sleep as well, get acid reflux, breathing is harder during the night. And those are benign compared to the risks.




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  6. Does eating meat with lots of vegetables help to counter the carcinogens and other harmful substances such as nitrosamines? I wonder if there’s any research that shows the results of eating both meat and veg together.




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  7. Kate- As a moderator for NF.org, I wanted to respond to your question asking if eating meat with lots of vegetables counter carcinogens. It it would be very difficult to design a study demonstrating that just amount of vegetables can neutralize the cancer causing effect of just this amount of meat. So many variables would need to be accounted for (what kind of meat? what type of vegetables? other characteristics of diet, eaters, what type and outcome of cancer exposure? etc) What we can do is look at studies that compare those who eat meat and vegetables with those who only eat vegetables and look at cancer rates (Adventists studies that demonstrate better health outcomes for the non-meat eaters who ate only vegetables v those who ate vegetables but also meat) We can also look at the many studies demonstrating the association between meat and higher cancer rates and the opposite vegetable consumption and decreased cancer growth. Still to determine exactly how much the meat contributes to cancer growth as compared to how much the vegetables contribute to less cancer risk or growth is very tricky considering how complex cancer and our body’s ability to resist and recover from cancer exposure. As Dr. Greger has stated https://nutritionfacts.org/video/animalistic-plant-proteins/ “While animal proteins increase levels of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1, and most plant proteins bring levels down, “high quality” plant proteins, such as soy, may not significantly affect levels in either direction. This, however, may depend on the quantity consumed.”
    Other researchers have also indicated the complexity involved referring to the “package deal” of proteins https://nutritionfacts.org/video/harvards-meat-and-mortality-studies/ and concluding, rather than looking for a specific study which will not capture this complexity, better to focus on picking food known to minimize risk (specific vegetables) and to avoid those known to promote cancer (meat) The chair of Harvard’s nutrition department [Walter Willett], recommends choosing “the best protein packages by emphasizing plant sources of protein rather than animal sources.”

    I hope that provides some perspective to your question. As far as nitrosamines, this will shed some light on how plants with Vitamin C can help counteract the negative effects; https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/nitrosamines/




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