Carcinogens in meat

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Modern methods of raising animals for food have raised health concerns for meat-eaters. Antibiotics, growth hormones, heavy metals, dioxins, and various other compounds are raising the risk of cancer.


Why should I be aware of this?

Cooking protein-rich foods like meats and eggs at high temperatures releases a chemical called PhIP, which is thought to be cancer-causing. It could be behind the link between increased incidence of breast cancer among women who eat large quantities of meat, although fat and caloric intake and hormone exposure may also play a role in this increased risk.

Meat contains a number of carcinogens. These include the nitrites used in meat processing, and residues of the many antibiotics routinely

All about carcinogens in meat

Because chickens are raised in such crowded and unhealthy conditions, they are very susceptible to disease, so in an attempt to keep them alive through conditions that would otherwise kill them, farmers feed them an array of antibiotics, including one that contains the most toxic form of arsenic. A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-published in Environmental Health Perspectives in January 2004-revealed that chicken contains three to four times more potentially poisonous arsenic than other poultry and meats. Eating a typical 2 ounces of chicken a day means ingesting 3.6 to 5.2 micrograms of cancer-causing arsenic.

And arsenic isn't the only thing you need to worry about the next time someone offers you a chicken leg. More than 95 percent of our exposure to dioxin, a well-known carcinogen, comes from eating animal products (the rest is environmental; none comes from vegan foods). Researchers with the Institute of Medicine have even recommended that school cafeterias offer more foods that are low in animal fat so that children aren't exposed to unhealthy levels of dioxins, dangerous byproducts of industrial and natural combustion that can accumulate in body fat. According to Michael Taylor of Resources for the Future, "The most direct way to reduce dietary exposure to dioxins is to reduce consumption of animal fat." Remember, more than half the calories of even the leanest chicken comes from fat.

Fish, in addition to containing concentrated (and carcinogenic) animal protein, is often very high in environmental contaminants. Fish commonly contains mercury, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other organochlorine pesticides. These contaminants, which have been linked to cancer and other health problems, tend to accumulate in body fat and remain in the body for decades.

In fact, 80 to 90 percent of dietary pesticide exposure, as well as 100 percent of dietary hormone and dioxin exposure, comes from eating animal products, and many of these chemicals are known to cause cancer in human beings.

Finally, additional carcinogens form when meat is cooked. These cancer-causing chemicals, specifically called heterocyclic amines, are found in cooked red and white meats, including fish and poultry. In fact, the amount found in grilled chicken is 15 times higher than in hamburger or steak.

When you’re enjoying grilling, broiling, barbecuing or frying, don’t forget the seasonings! Rosemary, and some spices – chilli, cumin, ginger, galangal, and others found in Thai foods, inhibit HCAs developing in meat being cooked at high temperatures.

Five different HCAS develop in meat when it is grilled, roasted, barbecued or done on a rotisserie at temperatures above 400 degrees F.


  • Marinating beef in green tea may reduce the levels of potentially cancer-promoting compounds, according to a study published in Food Chemistry.
  • A component of garlic that gives the herb its flavour may inhibit the effects of a suspected carcinogen produced by meat cooked at high temperatures, say US researchers.
  • In 2007, Dr J. Scott Smith, food science professor at Kansas State University, found out about rosemary’s strength against the carcinogenic compounds while researching ways to reduce HCAs.


  • Carcinogens in Meat
  • Green Tea Reduces Meat Carcinogens
  • Garlic component fights meat carcinogens
  • [Spices Protect Against Carcinogenic HCAs in Cooked Meat]