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Cancer inhibitor identified in burgers.

Cancer inhibitor identified in burgers

Vegetarians like to remind their carnivorous comrades that meat-eating may be dangerous to their health, as research has shown traces of mutagens and carcinogens in cooked meat. But the humble hamburger may yet make a comback, especially if recent research is borne out. Michael W. Pariza, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the director of the university's Food Research Institute, has isolated and identified a cancer inhibitor in fried hamburger.

In research published in part in the December Carcinogenesis, the compound proved effective in preventing skin and stomach cancers in mice when given in concentrations equivalent to that found in eight hamburgers per day. The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, McDonalds Corp., the American Meat Institute and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. It builds upon Pariza's previous finding of an unidentified cancer inhibitor in beef (SN: 12/22&29/84, p.390).

Despite the findings, Pariza doesn't recommend eating eight burgers per day. Most foods probably have both cancer-promoting and cancer-inhibiting components in them, he says. "There's got to be at least ten million things in a hamburger after you've fried it. How they interact is the important thing."

The newfound inhibitor, a conjugated form of linoleic acid, appears in meat as the result of a chemical reaction between fats and proteins during the cooking process. In contrast to the protective powers of an eight-burger helping, Pariza says, one would have to eat 80,000 charcoal-broiled hamburgers to get a dangerous dose of one of the better known carcinogens in cooked meat, benzo[a]pyrene.

Nevertheless, he says, "We're not seeing hamburgers as a magic bullet" against cancer. "There really are no anti-cancer foods. The best advice still is to eat a well-balanced diet in moderation."
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 9, 1988
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