Adding certain spices to your burgers before grilling them may cut the long-associated cancer risk of cooked beef, according to a study by Kansas State University (KSU) featured in the Food Safety Consortium Spring 2010 newsletter and reported by HealthDay News.

For the study, researchers evaluated the cancer-inhibiting potential of six spices: cumin, coriander seeds, galangal, fingerroot (a.k.a. Chinese ginger), rosemary and turmeric. Scientists tested the spices’ ability to prevent the formation of cancer-causing compounds called HCAs (heterocyclic amines), which are produced when beef is barbecued, grilled, broiled and fried.

“Cooked beef tends to develop more HCAs than other kinds of cooked meats such as pork and chicken,” said J. Scott Smith, PhD, a KSU food chemistry professor. Compared with other meats, cooked beef patties seem to have the most cancer-causing ability, he said, adding that beef patties might be the most important source of HCAs in the human diet.

But if cooks armed themselves with fingerroot, rosemary and turmeric, however, they can cut HCA production in meat by 40 percent, also significantly reducing the HCA-associated risk of developing colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, mammary and prostate cancers.

Of the three spices, rosemary was the strongest HCA inhibitor, lowering the harmful agent by 61 percent to 79 percent.

Study authors stressed that spicing allowed safe grilling of meat at high temperatures while blocking the increased HCA production caused by intense fire.

Researchers plan to study the HCA-inhibiting ability of other marinades and powders, but they said earlier research also showed that marinating steaks with certain herbs and spices lowered HCA production.

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