Grilling food outdoors is generally viewed as a healthy alternative to other foods out there. Often to the point that it inherently creates situations in which people unconsciously choose these foods over others based purely off of nutritional comparison.
In recent study with research dating back to the 60s, there have been decidedly clear links to char-grilled and grilled foods and the onset of cancer. One study showed a direct link between grilled meats and the occurrence of colorectal cancer. Another recent study has suggested that meat-based, high-protein diets skyrocket a person’s risk for developing cancer by 400 percent and increases the risk of death from other causes by at least 75 percent.
There is a key culprit at hand. Combusting wood, gas, or charcoal emits chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Exposure to these so-called PAHs is known to cause skin, liver, stomach, and several other types of cancer in lab animals. Epidemiological studies link occupational exposure to PAHs to cancer in humans.
PAHs from a flame added with nitrogen, say from a slab of meat, can form nitrated PAHs, or NPAHs. NPAHs are even more carcinogenic than PAHs and in most cases processed foods such as hotdogs or pre-made patties including pre-seasoned meat is full of them. This is the root issue of grilling and there are 3 major and very common mistakes that when coupled with NPAHs creates an environment that escalates cancer risk.
- Using Aluminum Foil – Most people usually wrap their corn and potatoes in aluminum foil, however aluminum is known to leach into food when exposed to high temperatures. That’s concerning, since there’s a link between aluminum and dementia. (11) A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Electrochemical Science also found that exposing food in aluminum foil to heat caused leaching to occur in levels that would be considered unacceptable by the World Health Organization. (12).
Aluminum Accumulates in the Bones and in the Brain
The researchers found dangerously high levels of aluminum in foods after being cooked, reheated, and even cooled on aluminum foil. The cause for alarm is that when aluminum accumulates in the body, it can lead to osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.
Test results indicate that cooking increases the aluminum concentration in both white and red meats by 89 – 378 % in red meats and 76 – 215 % in poultry. The least increase (76 – 115 %) is observed in the samples baked for 60 min at 150 °C, while the highest increase (153 – 378 %) is in the samples baked for 20 min at 250 °C. Acidity and fat content also played significant roles.
- Using non-stick utensils and cookware – It is observed that there is a significant amount of perfluorooctanoic chemicals (PFOA), also known as C8, is another man-made chemical. It is used in the process of making Teflon and similar chemicals (known as fluorotelomers), although it is burned off during the process and is not present in significant amounts in the final products it is very commonly found in nonstick cookware have been linked to obesity, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, and toxicity to the brain, liver, prostate and kidneys.
These chemicals wear down over time and eventually make their way into our bodies. While PFOA is used in making Teflon, it is present in extremely small amounts in Teflon-coated products. Knock-off materials are shown to have even higher levels. As more information surfaces, the risks are becoming more clear.
Recent PFOA research has included studies on monkeys, rats, and mice showing “developmental effects (survival, body weight changes, reduced ossification, delays in eye opening, altered puberty, and retarded mammary gland development), liver toxicity (hypertrophy, necrosis, and effects on the metabolism and deposition of dietary lipids), kidney toxicity (weight), immune effects, and cancer (liver, testicular, and pancreatic).”
- Using cured meats and pre-made marinades – Not all marinades are created equal. Some contain very high levels of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. When both are scorched the sugars tend to caramelize, often sealing harmful chemicals onto the meat.
Cured and pre-marinated meats also tend to be loaded with preservatives and nitrates that when heated up, produce astronomical levels of PFOAs. Still the FDA and WHO also remain concerned about the presence in food of acrylamides, a known carcinogen that forms from sugar and amino acids when cooked at high temperatures. Long-term studies are currently underway.