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Are you aware of the carcinogenic environmental pollutants in raw meat?

Are you aware of the carcinogenic environmental pollutants in raw meat?

When the Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced months ago that the consumption of both red meat and processed meat was linked to an increased risk of cancer, all alarms jumped.

The specialized institution of the World Health Organization (WHO) reviewed more than 800 studies and classified red meat as a 'probable carcinogen to humans' (group 2A) and processed meat as 'carcinogenic to humans' (group 1), with sufficient evidence that its consumption can cause colorectal cancer.

According to work published six months ago in The Lancet Oncology, the substances responsible for this potential carcinogenicity would be generated by the meat's own processing, such as salting, fermentation, curing and smoking, or when the meat is heated to high temperatures and substances suspected of being carcinogenic are released.

The daily consumption of meat also contributes to exposure to toxic substances that reach us through the diet consumed by animals.

However, a study published in Environmental Research indicates that, in its report, the IARC made no reference to environmental contaminants in raw or unprocessed meat, the presence of which is already known from previous studies. For this reason, scientists from the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) have analyzed the role of these compounds.

However, a study published in Environmental Research indicates that, in its report, the IARC made no reference to environmental contaminants in raw or unprocessed meat, the presence of which is already known from previous studies. For this reason, scientists from the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) have analyzed the role of these compounds.

"We believe that this is an issue that is worth taking into account to establish the global causes of carcinogenicity in the consumption of red and processed meat," emphasizes José Luis Domingo, lead author of the work together with Martí Nadal, researchers at URV Laboratory of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

Higher concentration of toxins in fat

Although it has been shown that meat and meat products have an important nutritional value due to their contribution of proteins, amino acids, vitamin B12 and iron, their daily consumption also contributes to exposure to toxic substances that reach us through the diet consumed by the animals, based on feed, forages or herbages. "The water that cattle drink and the air that cattle breathe can be minor routes of contamination for humans through the consumption of meat," says Domingo.

"Risks to the health of consumers are related to micropollutants - generated by human activity through breeding or veterinary treatments - or toxins induced by the processing itself," the authors underline in the study.

Potential environmental toxins include inorganic elements such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead; perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pesticides, dioxins and other persistent organic compounds (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), industrial chemicals considered one of the twelve most harmful pollutants made by humans , according to the United Nations Environment Program.

Most of these substances are soluble in fats, so any food with high fat content accumulates higher levels of micro-pollutants than vegetable matter. “PCBs like the rest of POPs accumulate in the fatty parts of meats because they are fat soluble. A reduction in the consumption of fats from meats will reduce the intake of PCBs. On the contrary, eating meats with a high fat content can lead to significant exposure to PCBs ”, the scientist informs Sinc.

To verify how cooking processes affect the presence of contaminants in meat, the researchers analyzed in the laboratory the effects of frying, grilling, roasting or boiling on the concentration of various environmental, organic and inorganic contaminants, present in steaks. beef, pork tenderloin, chicken breast and thigh - which contain fewer organic pollutants than red meat - and lamb fillet and ribs.

The study argues that only cooking processes that remove fat from meat would tend to reduce the overall concentration of these contaminants.

The results show that the different types of cooking influence the concentration of toxins differently depending on the meat product. For example, POPs hardly change between cooked and raw meat. As these are organic substances, the study maintains that only cooking processes that release or remove fat from meat would tend to reduce the total concentration of these contaminants in cooked meat.

Reduce the level of contamination

The study authors recommend reducing the daily intake of fats from meat: "This would prevent not only cardiovascular risks, but also carcinogens, especially those associated with exposure to some environmental pollutants in meat", they recommend .

But the concentrations of dangerous substances do not depend only on the way in which the food is prepared, "but much more so on the original contents of the toxins in the food itself before it is cooked," says the URV researcher. In fact, not all meat is equally contaminated from the source.

“It will depend precisely on where and how the animals have been raised. Clean air and pastures can produce meats with very low levels of environmental pollutants ”, they affirm.

In general, the level of contamination in raw and unprocessed meat is below that of fish and shellfish, "although it is much higher than that of fruits, vegetables and legumes", indicates Domingo. "Pollution depends a lot on the fat content, a key tissue in the accumulation of carcinogenic POPs", concludes the expert.

Bibliographic reference:
Domingo, Jose L .; Nadal, Marti. “Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat: What about environmental contaminants?” Environmental Research145: 109-115 February 2016 DOI: 10.1016 / j.envres.2015.11.031

SINC Agency


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