Does Grilled Meat Cause Cancer?

From the All Natural Bodybuilding Forum

Meat is a staple food for many bodybuilders both because it tastes great AND provides plenty of muscle-building protein. And, of all the ways to cook meat, grilling is one of the most popular because it tends to reduce overall fat content and, again, it makes meat taste great. But if you’ve been paying attention in recent years, you know that many media outlets have linked grilled meat to various forms of cancer in humans.

So what’s the real story? Does grilled meat really cause cancer?

Here’s what we know.

Why Grilled Meat COULD Cause Cancer

When you cook meat at high temperatures, such as over an open flame when grilling, proteins in the meat can contribute to the formation of  heterocyclic amines, or HCAs.  These HCAs have  been found to be mutagenic, meaning they cause changes to DNA, and that’s a prime condition for cancer to flourish.

This is the basis for most of the media alarm bells  over the last several years, but is there a scientific basis to these claims?

What Science Says

Luckily, scientists are also interested in the effects of grilled meat on human bodies, and they’ve taken to the lab to find out what the risks are.

For instance, a 2009 review paper out of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine examined about five dozen studies conducted over the previous decade. The Vanderbilt researchers concluded that most of those studies did show a positive correlation between the consumption of grilled or well-done meat and the incident of cancer.

In a more recent study (2013) scientists from Case Western Reserve University found that the consumption of red meat cooked at high-temperature significantly increased the likelihood of developing colon cancer over time, even when compared to grilled white meat (chicken and other poultry).

On the other hand, many critics of these types of studies, such as  Craig Goldwyn of the Huffington Post,  point out that most of the research to this point has been epidemiological in nature.  This type of research relies on population surveys to collect data, and those are generally used as a starting point for more in-depth studies. It’s also not uncommon for initial hypotheses to  later be shown to be wrong.

Similarly, the National Cancer Institute describes possible links between grilled meat and cancer, but much of the research they cite is epidemiological in nature, too.

So Is Grilled Meat Safe?

It’s always alarming when your favorite foods are linked to cancer in any way, and that’s certainly true for grilled meat.

At this point, there is just not sufficient evidence that we should avoid grilled meat forever and in all cases.

If you ARE going to eat grilled meat, keep cooking times to a minimum and avoid eating charred or blackened cuts. If you eat grilled meat frequently, you might also consider cutting back to minimize your exposure.

Above all, if you have any concerns about grilled meat and your health, be sure to talk to your doctor or nutritionist, because they can give you an insider’s perspective, and they know the most about your  current health profile.