Grilling, Marinades & Cancer

by | Jul 28, 2015

‘Tis the season for grilling.

But before you sear chicken, steaks or even salmon over the coals, read about the danger of cancer hidden in charred meats, and learn how certain marinades can mitigate risk—research conducted by 13-year-old Lauren Hodge whose work won top honors at the inaugural Google Science Fair.

One night, when her mom was preparing grilled chicken for dinner, Lauren noticed the edges of the chicken turned white. Later, in biology class, she learned about denaturing, when proteins change shape and lose their ability to chemically function. “So I combined these two ideas and I formulated a hypothesis, saying that, could possibly the carcinogens be decreased due to a marinade and could it be due to the differences in PH?”

Her tests found that lemon, honey and salt water marinades inhibit carcinogenic formation, olive oil has a negligible effect and soy sauce seems to slightly increase cancer potential. Lauren chose to focus her research on chicken because it has more carcinogens than other grilled meats.

This doesn’t mean you need to stop grilling! Just be mindful of marinades, don’t overcook your meats and avoid eating char.

Most of all, remember that VEGETABLES ARE YOUR FRIENDS. They are not carcinogenic when grilled AND they also have antioxidants that help neutralize the free radicals that cause cancer.

On another note, YAY for girls in science! In the same TED talk, you’ll meet two other young women, who, along with Lauren, swept the top spots at the inaugural Google Science Fair.

Grand prize winner, Shree Bose, started researching cancer at age 15, after the death of grandfather. Armed only with freshman biology, Bose went on to figure out how to prevent cells from becoming resistant to a chemotherapy drug.

Naomi Shah studied the impact of indoor air pollutants on asthma. Watch the TED talk to find out which environmental factors most impact human health and what you can do at home to reduce asthma triggers.