If you’re a meat-eater (an informed meat-eater), you may have heard of HCAs or heterocyclic amines. These chemicals are created when meats are cooked at high temperatures, and they’ve been linked to cancer. Fortunately, some research indicates that extracts from apples and other fruits may reduce HCA formation, making the meat safer.
After testing the effect of extracts from apples, elderberries, grape seeds, and pineapples on the formation of HCA’s, researchers from the University of Hong Kong and Rutgers University have found that apple and grape seed extracts can reduce the formation of HCA by up to 70%.
HCAs, according to The Cancer Institute, have been found to cause cancer in animals, though they have not been proven to cause cancer in humans. Still, the formation of these admittedly-carcinogenic compounds could be linked to the increased risk of certain types of cancers among those who consume the most meat.
HCA formation in meat depends on several factors including the type of meat, the temperature at which it is cooked, and how long it is cooked.
The researchers indicate there are several different HCAs that apples and other fruit extracts can inhibit. In the case of apple extracts, the HCA formation was reduced by anywhere from 59 to 72 percent depending on the type of HCA.
“This is the first report showing the inhibitory activities of apple phenolics on the formation of HCAs,” said the researchers. “The findings provide valuable information for the development of effective strategies to minimize the HCA content of cooked meats and to identify several new natural products that may have new applications in the food industry.”
While it isn’t clear if we can receive the same benefits from these extracts when simply eating apples or adding them to meat dishes, it surely can’t hurt. Actually, other research found that compounds in apples known as oligosaccharides could kill up to 46% of human colon cancer cells. So dig in!
In addition, The Cancer Institute says you can reduce the amount of HCAs formed when cooking by not exposing meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface. They also say to reduce cooking time whenever possible.
If the thought of cancer-causing meat is enough to frighten you, going meat-free is always another option.