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Marinades "may reduce cancer risk"

Marinating steak in beer or red wine before cooking it makes the meat less likely to contribute to cancer, experts have discovered.

Especially high levels of cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HAs) are contained in fried and grilled meat, caused by the effect of hot temperatures on sugars and amino acids.

Previous research has found that HA levels in grilled chicken can be reduced by 90% by putting the meat in a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic before cooking. Red wine has also been shown to lower HAs in fried chicken.

Now the effects of beer and red wine marinades on fried steak have been examined by scientists led by Dr Isabel Ferreira at the University of Porto in Portugal.

"Six hours of marinating in beer or red wine slashed levels of two types of HA by up to 90% compared with unmarinated steak," New Scientist magazine reported.

Beer was more efficient than wine for a third type of HA, cutting levels significantly in four hours. Wine took six hours to have the same effect.

Scientists have found 17 different HAs resulting from the high temperature cooking of meat, with one study showing a strong link between stomach cancer and consumption of cooked meats.

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Department of Health