Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Never mind smoking- everyone knows it is harmful, it’s the food you eat, stupid!

A man "enjoying" a smoke
Zimbabwean urban dwellers like me and other viewers always take Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Television (ZTV) analysts with a pitch of salt, that is, if they ever still watch it, man.

So when nutritionist Tinashe Chikoore last week said eating braai meat  is equivalent to smoking 600 cigarettes, at first I just laughed it off.

Then I embarked on a little Google-based internet research…

Ruining a piece of meat isn’t the only thing you need to worry about if you’re cooking at high temperatures. High heat can also produce chemicals with cancer-causing properties, reports the June 2007 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

When meat is cooked at high temperatures, amino acids react with creatine to form heterocyclic amines, which are thought to cause cancer. That’s why cooking meat by grilling, frying, or broiling is the problem. Grilling is double trouble because it also exposes meat to cancer-causing chemicals contained in the smoke that rises from burning coals and any drips of fat that cause flare-ups. 

How long the meat is cooked is also a factor in heterocyclic amine formation; longer cooking time means more heterocyclic amines. Depending on the temperature at which it’s cooked, meat roasted or baked in the oven may contain some heterocyclic amines, but it’s likely to be considerably less than in grilled, fried, or broiled meat.

Recent studies have proven that eating braai meat may lead to cancer,also warns

Combusting wood, gas or charcoal, emits chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
South Africans on National Braai Day
Exposure to these chemicals reportedly causes skin, liver, stomach and many other types of cancers in lab animals. The PAHs from a flame, combined with nitrogen, from a slab of meat, can form nitrated PAHs, which are more toxic than the PAHs found in lab experiments.

Basically, grilling meat may be hazardous to your health.
Some facts of such a claim can be taken from an epidemiological study, which indicates a statistical connection between the increased occurrence of cancer of the intestinal tract and the frequent intake of smoked foods.
A study that has observed a certain district of Hungary with a Slovenian population, over the last ten years, has recorded the percentage of stomach cancer to be higher than all types of cancer. (This specific area consumes home-smoked meat products.)

Studies range from decades ago, which echoes the same sentiments observed in more recent studies. For instance, from a 1950s perspective, cigarettes were not so different from eating grilled or fried meat. This places fried or braai meat, in the same hazardous category as smoking a cigarette.  
Although none of these studies are definitive. It is possible that other factors can account for the connections between cancer and cooking over a flame or high heat.

The Environmental Protection Agency(in SA) is developing relative ‘strength’ factors to define the risk of cancer from exposure to PAHs, but right now, it is fairly difficult to clearly define the dangers of an activity like grilling and eating a steak. Nothing may be solid enough to ha

A family enjoying braai meat,oblivious of its dangers
Here are some suggestions from the Harvard Medical School: Marinating meat is often suggested as one way to cut down on the formation of heterocyclic amines, but the evidence that marinating helps is mixed. The Harvard Health Letter suggests some other tips that may make grilled meat safer to eat:
  • Cook smaller pieces: They cook more quickly and at lower temperatures.
  • Choose leaner meat: Less fat should reduce flames and therefore smoke.
  • Precook in the microwave: Doing so for two minutes may decrease heterocyclic amines by 90%, according to some research.
  • Flip frequently: That way, neither side has time to absorb or lose too muchheat.