Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, & Creatine?

Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, & Creatine?
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Even vegetarians could potentially be exposed to the carcinogens typically formed by cooking meat through eggs, cheese, creatine sports supplements, and cigarette smoke.

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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.

More than 20 heterocyclic amines have been reported in cooked meats, fish, and poultry prepared under common household cooking conditions. To reduce one’s exposure to these cooked meat carcinogens, one could, of course, eat vegetarian—or, even just refrain from eating meat for 24 hours, and the levels of the two chief heterocyclic amines drop to zero. So, if you practice meatless Mondays, by Tuesday morning, the levels of PhIP and MeIQx (one of the most potent mutagens ever tested), become N.D. (non-detectable).

Now, for a third cooked meat carcinogen, they actually did find some in a few folks—even though they hadn’t eaten meat in 24 hours. That perplexed the researchers. Now, the four subjects that “had quantifiable amounts of IQ[4,5-b] in their urine after refraining from meat consumption” (which is an isomer of a powerful animal carcinogen, IQ)—they had each eaten cheese and/or boiled eggs as part of their diet, while abstaining from cooked meats. IQ and several other heterocyclic amines have been reported in fried eggs, so it’s possible “that IQ[4,5-b], which forms at temperatures well below 100° C, may be present in boiled eggs or possibly other foods containing creatinine, such as cheese.”

That brought up an interesting side note, though. What about all the “[d]ietary supplementation of creatine by sports enthusiasts” as a supplement, which turns into creatinine? They speculate that “high consumption of creatine” supplements “could result in [the] formation of “genotoxic [heterocyclic amines] in the body”—a cautionary note for both the vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Another finding of cooked meat carcinogens in a vegetarian was reported in a study comparing the levels of PhIP growing out in people’s hair. It “was detected in hair samples of all six [of the] meat-eaters” they tested, “but was…detected in one out of [the] six vegetarians.” Now, it was low, just above the kind of level of detection, so they kind of dismissed it, suggesting that “exposure occurs primarily through the consumption of cooked meats or poultry, and that nonmeat-derived sources of exposure…are probably negligible.”

But, not if you smoke. Remember, these carcinogens are “found in cooked meat, poultry, fish, and cigarette smoke.” Even if you ate meatless Mondays all the way through meatless Sundays, you can still be exposed, smoking cigarettes. Here’s a measure of PhIP exposure in smoking meat-eaters, nonsmoking meat-eaters, compared to smoking vegetarians, and nonsmoking vegetarians. So, it’s not enough to just eat healthy.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Ano Lobb. @healthyrx and Gideon via flickr; PackaSG via Wikimedia; and The Monday Campaigns, Inc

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.

More than 20 heterocyclic amines have been reported in cooked meats, fish, and poultry prepared under common household cooking conditions. To reduce one’s exposure to these cooked meat carcinogens, one could, of course, eat vegetarian—or, even just refrain from eating meat for 24 hours, and the levels of the two chief heterocyclic amines drop to zero. So, if you practice meatless Mondays, by Tuesday morning, the levels of PhIP and MeIQx (one of the most potent mutagens ever tested), become N.D. (non-detectable).

Now, for a third cooked meat carcinogen, they actually did find some in a few folks—even though they hadn’t eaten meat in 24 hours. That perplexed the researchers. Now, the four subjects that “had quantifiable amounts of IQ[4,5-b] in their urine after refraining from meat consumption” (which is an isomer of a powerful animal carcinogen, IQ)—they had each eaten cheese and/or boiled eggs as part of their diet, while abstaining from cooked meats. IQ and several other heterocyclic amines have been reported in fried eggs, so it’s possible “that IQ[4,5-b], which forms at temperatures well below 100° C, may be present in boiled eggs or possibly other foods containing creatinine, such as cheese.”

That brought up an interesting side note, though. What about all the “[d]ietary supplementation of creatine by sports enthusiasts” as a supplement, which turns into creatinine? They speculate that “high consumption of creatine” supplements “could result in [the] formation of “genotoxic [heterocyclic amines] in the body”—a cautionary note for both the vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Another finding of cooked meat carcinogens in a vegetarian was reported in a study comparing the levels of PhIP growing out in people’s hair. It “was detected in hair samples of all six [of the] meat-eaters” they tested, “but was…detected in one out of [the] six vegetarians.” Now, it was low, just above the kind of level of detection, so they kind of dismissed it, suggesting that “exposure occurs primarily through the consumption of cooked meats or poultry, and that nonmeat-derived sources of exposure…are probably negligible.”

But, not if you smoke. Remember, these carcinogens are “found in cooked meat, poultry, fish, and cigarette smoke.” Even if you ate meatless Mondays all the way through meatless Sundays, you can still be exposed, smoking cigarettes. Here’s a measure of PhIP exposure in smoking meat-eaters, nonsmoking meat-eaters, compared to smoking vegetarians, and nonsmoking vegetarians. So, it’s not enough to just eat healthy.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Ano Lobb. @healthyrx and Gideon via flickr; PackaSG via Wikimedia; and The Monday Campaigns, Inc

Doctor's Note

Caution may also be necessary with athletic protein supplementation. See Heavy Metals in Protein Powder Supplements. In general, Some Dietary Supplements May Be More than a Waste of Money.

More information on the Meatless Monday campaign can be found on their website meatlessmonday.com.

Measuring toxin levels in hair or nail clippings is a noninvasive way to measure long-term exposure levels. See Hair Testing for Mercury and Hair Testing for Mercury Before Considering Pregnancy for another instance of where it’s used.

Heterocyclic amines are not the only class of meat carcinogens also found in cigarette smoke. See my video When Nitrites Go Bad. While the body can detox itself of both nitrosamines and these cooked meat chemicals within hours or days, some pollutants found in meat can persist in the body. See Industrial Pollutants in VegansFlame-Retardant Chemical Contamination, and How Fast Can Children Detoxify from PCBs?

This is the final video of my four-part series on heterocyclic amines—or is it? In Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens, we explored the role of these cooked meat chemicals in tumor growth. In PhIP: The Three Strikes Breast Carcinogen, we explored their role in cancer invasion. Then, Reducing Cancer Risk In Meat-Eaters offered some mediation strategies. The next two videos also involve these carcinogens—but only as an experimental model of cancer formation, in order to test the power of various plants to stop this transformation.

Also, check out my associated blog posts for more context: Avoid Cooked Meat Carcinogens; Foods that May Block Cancer Formation; and Raisins vs. Energy Gels for Athletic Performance.

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

27 responses to “Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, & Creatine?

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  1. “There is little data on the toxicological properties of IQ[4,5-b], and the potential risk of this HAA for human health is unknown. IQ[4,5-b] is mutagenic in the Ames reversion assay in strain TA98 in the presence of liver S9 obtained from polychlorinated biphenyl pretreated rats and a more potent mutagen in tester strain YG1024 (47).”




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  2. “A number of HAAs have been reported to induce tumors at multiple sites in experimental ANIMALS (5−8). Several HAAs have been identified in human urine following the consumption of cooked meats, indicating that HAAs are readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract (9−11). Human tissues metabolically activate HAAs to genotoxins (12, 13), and some EPIDEMIOLOGICAL investigations have linked the frequent consumption of foods such as grilled meats containing HAAs with an elevated risk of colon and breast cancer (14−16).”
    In other words not once have HAA’s been proven to cause tumour growth in humans or increase mortality rates through randomized clinical trials.




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      1. If by “unreasonable addictions” you mean a physiological need then yes. Its just one reason why vegetarians and vegans end up giving up and eating meat.




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        1. SOME vegetarians and vegans end up giving up and start
          eating meat again because we live in meat-centered culture–not because of physiological needs. If humans had a physiological need for meat, then there would be few, if any, lifelong vegetarians and vegans.




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    1. As far as I can determine, not once have smoking cigarettes
      been directly PROVEN to cause lung cancer in humans. This is not because smoking
      cigarettes does not cause lung cancer in humans, it’s because of limitations in
      study designs. I think the critique you just provided falls into a similar
      category.




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      1. “cigarette smoking is one of those activities that was so patently dangerous, it returned risk ratios so powerful researchers knew it was highly unlikely the findings were due to chance or confounding from other potentially carcinogenic factors. Not to mention that this powerful risk relationship was backed by a totally non-brainer hypothesis: People who fill their lungs with toxic gases for years on end will be more likely to get sick. Duh.”




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        1. Using your argument I’ll say that people who fill their bodies with toxic materials (edible food-like substances) for years on end will be more likely to get sick. “Duh.”
          Don’t forget, years ago what you NOW call a “no-brainer” hypothesis,” was to many a novel “idea” that was rejected out of hand as having no merit. Seems silly now that smoking was ever considered a safe practice. I’m guessing that in 20-40 yrs it will seem silly that a meat-centered diet was ever considered a safe thing to practice.




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    2. I’m a healthy ethical vegan, but it’s a fair question IMHO. However…

      – We can often find out compelling, potentially life-saving dietary information from population and in vitro studies, especially if there is a preponderance of such studies and they’re basically well-formed. It’s difficult to conduct 100% controlled clinical trials on every aspect of diet.

      – A related video on this site, http://nutritionfacts.org/video/meat-fumes-dietary-secondhand-smoke/, has some human-focused research. Not a “gold standard” study in which some people were secretly subjected to meat fumes (you’d run into ethical problems there), but enough to make you wary of breathing that stuff in, much less cooking it. Often, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.




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        1. Protein is broken down into its smaller component amino acids in the stomach and intestine. They are well absorbed. Infants can absorb intact proteins but in adults we are less likely to do that unless the intestinal tract is damaged. So as adults we don’t directly absorb protein but seem to be able to readily absorb amino acids. Alot of confusion about protein how much and quality and for specific populations like body builders or endurance athletes. At this point data supports it would be very hard not to meet your needs if you consume adequate calories. The best three articles that are well referenced science based are three articles in Dr. John McDougall’s monthly newsletters available for free on his website. The dates are 12/03, 4/07 & 1/04. There seems to be good data to support not increasing our protein intake above our needs since we can’t store it and the liver and kidneys have to metabolize and eliminate the excess. There is also good data to support getting our protein from plant over animal sources. Stay tuned to NutritionFacts.org as the science keeps coming…




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  3. Your mention of (supplemental)creatine referred only to a speculation that was not tested on anyone. I would be interested in sources of subsequent testing on vegans supplementing with creatine and possibly Creapure creatine( a German made product claimed to be devoid of any contaminant.)




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  4. Unless he is talking to a British audience, Dr. Greger is mispronouncing the word, “amines.” Americans aren’t supposed to pronounce that word the way Dr. Greger pronounces it:
    http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=amines&submit=Submit
    http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=amine&submit=Submit
    http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=heterocyclic&submit=Submit
    http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=cyclic&submit=Submit
    http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=cyclical&submit=Submit

    “Greger” is a German name. In Germany, “Greger” would be pronounced, “Gray-gah.”




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