Want to Lower Your Cancer Risk? Before You Grill, Marinate Your Meat in Beer

Certain beers have been discovered to drastically reduce the impact of harmful carcinogens in grilled meats.

A new study has found that harmful carcinogens produced when grilling meat at high temperatures can be curbed with beer marinades. (Photo: Reuters/Marco Bucco)

Liana Aghajanian is TakePart's weekend editor. Her work has appeared in ForeignPolicy.com, BBC.com, Los Angeles Times, and TheAtlantic.com.

Next time you barbecue, you might want to try marinating your meats in something a little more frothy than your normal sauce. A new study has found that cooking your steaks and pork chops in beer could eliminate harmful carcinogens that are produced when the meat is cooked over coals.

The study, published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that marinating meat with pilsner beer, nonalcoholic pilsner beer, and black beer lowered the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, substances that arise when meats are cooked at extremely high temperatures. 

Breathing cigarette smoke or working near or in a facility that makes asphalt or coal tar can also cause exposure to PAHs. These carcinogens can have potentially harmful health effects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PAHs have caused tumors in laboratory animals, birth defects, and can damage to the immune system. Though the effects of exposure to humans remains inconclusive, the National Cancer Institute says that PAHs “become capable of damaging DNA only after they are metabolized by specific enzymes in the body.”

The researchers from the University of Porto in Portugal grilled samples of pork marinated for hours in all three beers and cooked the meats to well done on a charcoal grill, according to the American Chemical Society

They found that black beer, which gets its color from the use of dark malts in brewing, was most powerful, slowing down the formation of PAHs by 53 percent, followed by nonalcoholic pilsner Beer and regular pilsner beer. Basically, eating beer-marinated meat "can be a suitable mitigation strategy," say the researchers.

The American Institute for Cancer Research also recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes to reduce carcinogen formation.

Though U.S. government agencies have established standards for PAHs in the workplace and for drinking water, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not established any standards when it comes to regulating PAH in food. If you’re looking for a recipe, the National Beer Wholesalers Association has got you covered with grilled pilsner-marinated fajitas.

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