Marinating Beef in beer or red wine “may cut cancer risk”

A recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Porto, Portugal, has found that marinating beef in beer or red wine can reduce the number of heterocyclic amines (HA) formed when it is fried or grilled.

Heterocyclic amines have been found in cooked food particularly in the crust of cooked fish and meat which has been fried or grilled. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has stated that some HAs are possible carcinogens and that humans should reduce their exposure to these substances.

HA formation is influenced by numerous factors such as the type of meat, cooking method, water transport, time and temperature. Previous research has found that compounds containing antioxidants can reduce the amount of HAs in cooked meat. These have included tea, red wine, olive oil and garlic.

Isabel Ferriera and her colleagues from Porto, stated that their objective was to compare the effect of red wine and beer marinades in the reduction of two classes of HAs.

The study involved 20 beef samples, 8 marinated in a pilsner beer (5.4% alcohol made from water, malt, unmalted cereals and hops), 8 marinated in a red wine (13% alcohol) and 4 control samples (unmarinated). The samples were marinated for 1, 2, 4 and 6 hours at 18°C. The samples were then fried (no oil added) for 4 minutes on each side. The temperature was monitored during cooking, and ranged from 180 to 200°C. After cooking, the steaks were cut up and ground with a blender and stored at -20°C. 270 beef samples were also used for sensory testing, including training, and evaluation.

Results showed that there were decreased levels of HAs in the samples which were marinated with beer or with red wine. After 6 hours of marinating, the amount of the carcinogens was reduced by 40-88%. Beer and wine marinades both significantly reduced the amount of carcinogens, but overall the beer was more effective.

It was concluded that the Has were affected by beer and red wine marinades. Overall, beer marinades were shown to be effective in reducing more HAs than wine and did not adversely affect the usual appearance and quality of the cooked samples.

(Melo et al. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56: 10625-10632).

EQUILIBRIA COMMENT – this is a really practical, and tasty way to reduce the carcinogenic risk associated with beef consumption. But do remember to source the highest quality beef you can find, preferably organic and pasture fed & make sure that it is an occasional treat rather than a weekly staple.