Friday, August 1, 2014

BBQing up a storm ?

by Dr Emma Derbyshire
The summer is here.  And as soon as that ray of sunshine comes out we gather friends and family and light the BBQ to enjoy some tasty food together. But when summer comes round, so does the discussion around Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and carcinogenics – often citing research about the health risks of eating charred meat, fish and poultry.

On that note, I was interested to read about the Cancer Research UK’s new campaign – BBQ to beat cancer – encouraging people to invite friends round for a BBQ to raise funds for this much admired charity.  Now this campaign caught my attention because it’s a cancer charity encouraging people to have BBQ’s – where typically there’s a lot of red meat consumed and the potential to consume charred food.  Lean red meat plays an important role our diets, providing us with many of the vitamins and minerals we need to function, but it is often, wrongly, vilified as a cause of cancer – so it’s great to see a cancer charity encourage people to enjoy eating red meat.

Anyway, back to the charred meat topic. Carcinogenics. Preventing burning of meat is one of several measures which are recommended to minimise any potential health risk of HCAs, but the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has examined this area and states that there is no need to exclude barbecued meat from diets but recommends some preparation and serving suggestions which can reduce the potential risk from HCAs, identified when grilling meat, poultry and fish, by 95%,
BDA recommendations contained in their Food Facts information entitled ‘Beef up on Healthy Barbecues’ include:

  • Marinate meats before cooking to reduce HCS levels by over 95%.  It seems that ingredients in marinades are rich in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants such as citrus juices, herbs, spices and olive oil.
  • Remove badly burnt bits before eating!
  • Serve barbecue meats with a yoghurt dip – yoghurt bacteria bind these chemicals and protect the digestive tract.
Hope you all have a great summer, and get the BBQs smouldering gently.

For some meaty recipes visit