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F.ood & H.ealth : C.ooking & P.acking Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Grilled chicken contains cancer-causing agent
By David Liu, Ph.D.
Oct 1, 2006, 22:35

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Grilled chicken from seven national restaurant chains contains a dangerous carcinogen called PhIP, prompting the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to file a lawsuit against the restaurants, the PCRM announced September 28.

The lawsuit was filed under California's Proposition 65 in The Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles to compel McDonald's, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Chili's, Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse, and TGI Friday's to warn unsuspecting consumers of the carcinogen. PhIP was found in every sample of grilled chicken from these restraurants.

"Grilled chicken can cause cancer, and consumers deserve to know that this supposedly healthy product is actually just as bad for them as high-fat fried chicken," says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. "Even a grilled chicken salad increases the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other forms of this lethal disease."

2-amino-1methyk-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP), along with three other heterocyclic amines (HCAs), known as 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f] quinoline (IQ), 2-amino-3,4-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f] quinoline (MeIQ), and 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f] quinoxaline (MeIQx) are listed by the National Toxicology Program in the Report on Carcinogen as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) including PhIP are formed by condensation of creatinine and amino acids in animal muscle during the cooking of meat. A high level of the cancer-causing agents can be formed in a cooking process at high temperature for a long time.

HCAs are readily absorbed and distributed in the body. They are metabolized by both phase I and phase II enzymes and become toxic forms, arylnitrenium ions, which ultimately bind to DNA, leading to HCA-induced DNA adducts.

PhIP and other HCAs are more toxic than commonly known carcinogens such as benzo-(a)-pyrene. Studies have already found that among others, intake of PhIP and other HCAs may increase risk of colon, breast and prostate cancer in humans, three most common cancers in the United States which are commonly associated with meat consumption.

To reduce HCAs in cooked meat, meat should be prepared under 392 F or 200 C. Direct heat should not be used to cook meat. Consumers may also use some spices to inhibit the formation of toxic forms of PhIP in the body. Garlic is one of known spices that counteract the cancer-causing effect of PhIP.

In a study presented at the annual meeting of American Association of Cancer Research held on Oct 31, 2005, Ronald D. Thomas, Ph.D. at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and colleagues reported that garlic compound diallyl sulfide (DAS) antagonizes PhIP-induced alterations in the expression of phase I and phase II metabolizing enzymes in human breast epithelial cells.

"We treated human breast epithelial cells with equal amounts of PhIP and DAS separately, and the two together, for periods ranging from three to 24 hours," said Thomas. "PhIP induced expression of the cancer-causing enzyme at every stage, up to 40-fold, while DAS completely inhibited the PhIP enzyme from becoming carcinogenic."

Another way consumers may try to prevent PhIP-induced cancers is to avoid consumption of meat. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a retired nutrition professor from Cornell University said in his book "China Study" that consumption of animal protein is linked with elevated activities of enzymes that convert many non-toxic chemicals such as aflatoxin into cancer-causing agents. Dr. Campbell and others have found meat consumption is linked with increased risk of many cancers.

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