Sizzling burgers, grill-marked juicy steaks and barbecued spareribs are summertime favourites for many people.
However, studies linking barbecued meat to cancer might have you wondering if eating grilled meat is harmful. And if so, how much is too much?
Here’s what the science says about the grilled meat-cancer connection, plus tips to make it safer.
What’s the harm with grilled meat?
The concern revolves around two chemicals formed during grilling: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Once consumed, enzymes in the body metabolize HCAs and PAHs into compounds that can damage DNA in cells, which could potentially increase the risk of cancer.
HCAs are created when protein in meat, chicken and fish reacts with creatine, a natural compound in muscle meats, during high-heat cooking (for example, grilling, barbecuing, broiling, pan-frying, deep-frying).
PAHs form when fat and juice from meat drip into the grill grate or onto hot coals, causing flames; PAHs are carried up in the smoke and stick to the surface of the meat. PAHs are also present in smoked meat.
The longer you grill meat, the more HCAs and PAHs are formed.
Exposure to HCAs and PAHs causes cancer in rodents. Keep in mind, though, that the doses of HCAs and PAHs used in animal studies were very high, far higher than the amount a person would consume in a typical diet.
Does eating grilled meat cause cancer in people?
There’s no conclusive data that it does. Findings from observational studies, which don’t prove cause and effect, have been mixed.
Some studies have associated a high intake of well-done, fried or barbecued meats with a greater risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. But other studies have not found a link.
It’s possible that diet questionnaires used in research studies don’t capture enough detail about cooking methods to accurately determine HCA and PAH levels and could, therefore, under or overestimate intake.
A person’s genetic makeup can also influence the potential risk of exposure to HCAs and PAHs. The activity of enzymes in the body that metabolize HCAs and PAHs, for example, varies from person to person.
How much grilled meat is too much?
Because of the lack of definitive evidence tying HCA and PAH consumption to cancer risk, there are no intake guidelines for grilled meat.
There are, however, intake recommendations for red meat and processed meats based on convincing evidence that high intakes of both increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
The Canadian Cancer Society advises limiting red meat (such as beef, lamb, pork, goat) to no more than three servings per week (one serving is equivalent to three ounces). Processed meats (such as ham, salami, bacon, hotdogs) should be consumed sparingly if at all.
Are grilled vegetables safe to eat?
Because vegetables contain little protein and don’t have any of the creatine that’s found in meat, grilling vegetables doesn’t create HCAs. Plus, vegetables (and fruit) contain flavonoids, phytochemicals thought to have anti-cancer properties.
Grilled tofu and bean burgers also don’t contain HCAs.
How can I reduce HCAs and PAHs in barbecued meat?
To reduce HCAs and PAHs, marinate meat for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Antioxidants in marinade ingredients such as wine, beer, citrus juice, herbs and spices are believed to inhibit HCA and PAH formation.
Marinades may also act as a barrier, shielding meat from PAHs carried up by smoke.
Choose lean cuts of meat (such as top sirloin, tenderloin, eye of round) and trim visible fat before grilling to help prevent flare-ups and smoke. Covering the grill with punctured aluminum foil will also prevent flare-ups.
Grill smaller cuts of meat such as kebabs instead of a whole steak to cut down on grilling time. Fish and seafood also take a shorter time to cook. Cook meat over a low flame to reduce HCAs and PAHs formation.
Partially precook (such as roast) large cuts of meat and then finish on the grill. Doing so has been shown to substantially reduce HCA formation.
Turning meat and burgers over frequently during grilling has also been shown to considerably reduce HCAs. Trim off charred bits on meat since these areas will have a higher concentration of HCAs.
Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD.
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Twitter Opens Algorithmic Bias Bounty Competition – PCMag.com
Twitter introduced a new bounty program that will reward DEF CON AI Village participants who discover and disclose signs of bias in the company’s image cropping algorithm before August 6.
The algorithm in question is used to determine which part of an image should be shown in Twitter’s mobile apps, and the company said in May that it had received complaints that the algorithm “didn’t serve all people equitably” because of “gender and race-based biases.”
Twitter’s analysis backed up those complaints: It said “an experiment of randomly linked images of individuals of different races and genders” that was conducted on 10,000 images showed that its image cropping algorithm was indeed biased in favor of women and white individuals.
The company responded by giving Twitter users direct control over how an image would be cropped in mobile timelines before it was sent, which it said “reduces our dependency on [machine learning] for a function that we agree is best performed by people using our products.”
Now Twitter is challenging DEF CON AI Village participants to find similar problems in the same algorithm. The company said that “with this challenge we aim to set a precedent at Twitter, and in the industry, for proactive and collective identification of algorithmic harms.”
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Participants were told to examine Twitter’s image cropping algorithm and the code on which it relies in an effort to “demonstrate what potential harms such an algorithm may introduce” and could affect “anyone from Twitter users to customers or Twitter itself” in the process.
The program will offer between $500 and $3,500 in cash prizes to five winning teams who will present their work on August 6. More information about the program is available via HackerOne.
Anvil Centre vaccine clinic shutting down after Aug. 7 – The Record (New Westminster)
If you’ve been meaning to make an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccine at Anvil Centre, you’d better get on it.
The mass immunization clinic in downtown New Westminster will soon be shutting down, as Fraser Health shifts into the next phase of its vaccine rollout.
More than two million doses have now been given out in the region (which spans the territory from Burnaby to Boston Bar), according to a Fraser Health media release issued July 29. Region-wide, more than 80% of eligible people have received at least one dose, and more than 60% have received their second dose.
With the demand for doses declining, Fraser Health will now be offering just four mass immunization clinics at regional hubs: Abbotsford’s Ag-Rec Centre, Poirier Forum in Coquitlam, Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, and North Delta Recreation Centre.
Immunization will also be available at the COVID-19 testing and immunization centres already running in a number of municipalities, including Langley, South Delta, South Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby (BCIT).
But New Westminster’s Anvil Centre clinic is among a long list of sites that will close. Its final date of operations will be Saturday, Aug. 7. The clinic at Burnaby’s Christine Sinclair Community Centre will also wind up the same day.
In the meantime, people in search of a first dose can walk in to the Anvil Centre (777 Columbia St.) any day between 10:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. to get their shot; no appointments are needed. Second doses will also be given out for those who are eligible, as capacity and supplies allow.
Next Wednesday, Aug. 4, has also been declared a provincewide “Walk-In Wednesday,” where first and second doses will be given out without appointments at all clinics in B.C. Anyone who received their first dose before June 16 will be eligible for a second dose that day.
Fraser Health says it will continue to focus on providing convenient access to vaccine for those who still need it.
“Fraser Health is committed to ensuring everyone who wants to be protected against COVID-19 by being immunized has access to the vaccine,” the release said. “We continue to ramp up our pop-up clinics, mobile clinics, outreach clinics and community initiatives to meet people where they are congregating, so access to vaccine is easy.”
In New West, several neighbourhood clinics have been offered in past weeks at St. Barnabas Church in the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood and the Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op downtown. So far, no new neighbourhood pop-up clinics are scheduled for New West, but anyone looking for clinic info should check the Fraser Health website, as listings are always being updated.
Twitter to Offer 'Bounty' to Users, Researchers for Finding Algorithmic Bias – Gadgets 360
Twitter said Friday it would offer a cash “bounty” to users and researchers to help root out algorithmic bias on the social media platform.
The San Francisco tech firm said this would be “the industry’s first algorithmic bias bounty competition,” with prizes up to $3,500.
The competition is based on the “bug bounty” programs some websites and platforms offer to find security holes and vulnerabilities, according to Twitter executives Rumman Chowdhury and Jutta Williams.
“Finding bias in machine learning models is difficult, and sometimes, companies find out about unintended ethical harms once they’ve already reached the public,” Chowdhury and Williams wrote in a blog post.
“We want to change that.”
They said the hacker bounty model offers promise in finding algorithmic bias.
“We’re inspired by how the research and hacker communities helped the security field establish best practices for identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in order to protect the public,” they wrote.
“We want to cultivate a similar community… for proactive and collective identification of algorithmic harms.”
The move comes amid growing concerns about automated algorithmic systems, which, despite an effort to be neutral, can incorporate racial or other forms of bias.
Twitter, which earlier this year launched an algorithmic fairness initiative, said in May it was scrapping an automated image-cropping system after its review found bias in the algorithm controlling the function.
The messaging platform said it found the algorithm delivered “unequal treatment based on demographic differences,” with white people and males favored over Black people and females, and “objectification” bias that focused on a woman’s chest or legs, described as “male gaze.”
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