Dr. Thomson shares how overcooked meat can contribute to the development of cancer.
So overcooked meat, we are talking about the formation of heterocyclic amines, and, you know, it’s a story that’s been told in terms of colorectal cancer for quite some time. And certainly we do have instruments now where we can measure people’s exposure to overcooked meats. We actually have questionnaires that show pictures and allow us to capture that better than we have historically, and certainly the evidence is there.
There are a lot of people who believe that it’s not just heterocyclic amines, it may be also changes in the bile acid composition within the GI tract and particularly the colon that may be contributory. So that’s an area of active research where we are looking at a number of different fatty acids, calcium, fiber, you know, the gamut in terms of colon health–probiotics. What is it in that microenvironment that may be contributing to cancer, and certainly heterocyclic amines are one of the compounds we need to be concerned about.
One of the things I know that at the Arizona Cancer Center we have advised people is perhaps to cook their meat in a microwave or in the oven to try and get the cooking process started before they throw it on the grill, or even putting some type of foil down and spraying it and making sure that you could cook the meat through without burning the outside.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom would say, “Boy, Cindy, you should write a book on cooking on high,” because I was always in a hurry, and that’s what we want people to slow down and not feel that this need to, you know, hurry and cook their food because that’s when we tend to get into problems.
And then there are people who just love the taste of charred meat, and they are going to have to work on that.
About Dr. Thomson, Ph.D., R.D.:
Dr. Cynthia Thomson, Ph.D., R.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona. She is a registered dietitian with a doctoral degree in nutritional sciences. She has been conducting cancer research since 1994. Dr. Thomson was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2003.