How beer with your BBQ could save your life
Marinating meat in beer before grilling it can reduce the chances of producing harmful chemicals that can cause cancer
By James Edgar9:37AM GMT 28 Mar 2014
A cold beer and a steak from the barbecue are often said to be a match made in heaven on a summer's day.
However research has found that the pairing is also good for your health as marinating meat in beer before grilling it can reduce the chances of getting cancer from eating barbecued food.
The process of cooking meat over hot coals is known to increase the production of potentially harmful chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are linked to colorectal cancer.
However, according to research published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, soaking meat in a marinade of beer – particularly stout or black beer – reduces the creation of PAHs when it is grilled.
High levels of the chemicals, which are also present in cigarette smoke and car exhaust, are associated with cancers in laboratory animals, and doctors have previously discovered a link between colorectal cancer among adults who eat a lot of grilled meat.
Wine or tea marinades can reduce the levels of some potential carcinogens in cooked meat, but little was known previously about how different beer marinades affect PAH levels.
Professor Isabel Ferreira Ferreira and colleagues from the University of Porto in Portugal grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black beer ale to well-done on a charcoal grill.
The Pilsner contained 5.2% alcohol, while the black beer contained 5.0% alcohol. All beers were purchased at local supermarkets.
Loin pork steaks weighing about 100 grams and around 75mm thick were also bought from a local supermarket in Porto.
The scientists found the black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of PAHs when compared to meat that had not been marinated.
All the beer marinades were more effective than no marinade at all, the lead researcher said.
"Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared to unmarinated pork."
For those who do not want to give up their barbecued meat, soaking it in beer first could be a “mitigation strategy” she added.
According to the research, PAH accumulation on charcoal-grilled meat is caused by three possible sources: contamination of the surface of the food by the smoke generated from the hot coals; the thermochemical decomposition of the organic matter in the meat, such as fat, protein, and carbohydrates on the surface of the food; and, mainly, by contact of dripping fat with hot embers.
The main factors that affect PAH concentrations in charcoal-grilled meat are the closeness to the heat source, the amount of fat in the raw product, and the cooking time, the study found.
The researchers said that although they do not yet know the exact reason why beer has a limiting effect on PAH formation, it may be possible that the antioxidant compounds from beer act as inhibitors in the free radical reaction pathways that create the compound.