Meat that has been cooked at high temperatures is one of the most common sources of dietary carcinogens. When cooked to a “well-done” state, meats contain dangerous compounds, including heterocyclic amines. These compounds are known to cause DNA mutations and cancer in animals.95,96 Scientists have recently confirmed that eating well-done meat poses health risks to humans as well.
Epidemiological studies have linked the consumption of well-done meat with cancers of the colon, breast, and stomach in adults.96 In men, greater consumption of very well-done meat has been linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Importantly, intake of total, red, or white meat did not increase prostate cancer risk, which led scientists to conclude that it is the heterocylic amines produced by high-temperature cooking—rather than the meat itself—that elevates prostate cancer risk.97
While heterocyclic amines themselves are not carcinogenic, they are transformed in the body into chemically reactive compounds that can interact with DNA to trigger the initiation of cancer.96 Scientists believe it may be possible to reduce the risks of these potential carcinogens by using nutritional and dietary strategies.
Protective compounds derived from vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables, may help to lessen the dangers of potent meat-derived carcinogens by preventing their activation or by increasing their detoxification.1 Scientists have noted that cruciferous vegetables help protect against DNA damage and pre-cancerous changes that can be induced by heterocyclic amines.98 Thus, ensuring regular intake of cruciferous vegetable compounds may help protect against one of the most prevalent sources of dietary carcinogens.