Does Burnt Food Really Cause Cancer? Here Are The Facts

How many times have you left your food to cook on the grill for far too long and part of it looks more like a slab of charcoal than meat, and you decided to eat it anyway since you didn’t want to waste the food? Or you just simply love the idea of sinking your teeth into crispy charred meat?

If you are like what I describe above, then it’s time for you to read this article and find out why it’s a bad idea to eat burnt food.

So, burnt food cause cancer, true or false? Many people, including me have dismissed it as an old wives’ tale, or at least not taken it seriously but while unclear, studies have shown that in animal models (lab rats), burnt food does have a correlation with cancer.

According to Natalie E. Azar, M.D., clinical assistant of medicine and rheumatology at NYU Medical Center, when meats (poultry, pork and fish) are cooked at extremely high temperatures, cancer-causing Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PCAs) which induce cancer growths in animal models, although no human trials have taken place, and we can see why that is so (Source: foxnews).

Just a food for thought, PCA also exists in cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes. Imagine ingesting those things when eating your burnt food.

Burnt vegetables, on the other hand, are said to not be as harmful as burnt meat, since HCAs, which require a specific mix of amino acids and creatine which is not available within vegetables, is not created. However, do note not to burn it too much as carcinogens like benzopyrene are created if vegetables are burnt too much. Benzopyrene is found in larger amounts in cigarette smoke, according to Karen Collins, MS, RD, a nutrition expert for the American Institute for Cancer Research (Source:

Listed below are 5 simple measures you can take to safeguard yourself from cancer, or at least to reduce the chances of getting it due to eating burnt food.

Marinate your meat: Cook your meat with garlic, rosemary, fruit pulp and vitamin-E rich spices can reduce HCA production by up to 70%.

Reduce time for cooking: Before you put the meat to cook, microwave it first for 60 – 90 secs to reduce the time required to fully cook the meat.

Reduce temperature: Direct exposure to high temperatures is the cause of production of HCAs and PCAs. If you are grilling, pan-frying or broiling, consider turning down the heat.

Use the right oil for the right kind of cooking: Some oils can mutate at high temperature and add to the problem that might be present in your cooking, says Dr Sue Decotiis, a board certified internist. Decotiis suggested using peanut oil if you are just stir-frying or adding it to your marinade as it is safe to eat even if the flame is at its maximum.

Just don’t eat the charred spots: these spots are hotspots for carcinogenic chemicals and if you have it on some part of your meats, just cut it off and trash it before anyone can get their hands on it.

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