10/18/11

Barbequed Meat: A Health Tip

          In recent decades, growing evidence has mounted regarding the health effects of a group of compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are generated on the surfaces of meats cooked at excessively high temperatures (i.e. frying, grilling, and barbequing).  Among the most mutagenic substances ever studied, HCAs have been implicated as a cause for several cancers in humans including breast, prostate, pancreatic, as well as colorectal cancer.  Unfortunately, popular muscle meats such as beef, pork, fowl, and fish are all subject to HCA formation as a result of these cooking practices.  However, since HCA formation is temperature dependent, meat that is well done or slightly burned will tend to have higher levels of HCAs than that which is prepared medium or rare.  Fortunately, there are tricks to cooking that will limit HCA levels in the meat you cook without forcing you to abandon your favorite cooking practices.  One helpful tip is provided below.



Reducing Your Exposure via Microwave Pretreatment

            A useful technique for reducing HCA formation involves the brief microwaving of meat prior to cooking.  Following this process, juices produced by the meat are to be drained and discarded.  Though you may think such juices are made up solely of water and fat, they in fact contain the key precursors to HCA production; namely, amino acids, glucose, and creatine.  By removing these substances prior to cooking, you are reducing the potential for HCAs to form.  One study showed that microwaving a beef patty for two minutes and discarding the resulting juices prior to cooking reduced total HCA levels by a factor of three when cooking at 200 °C and a factor nine when cooking at 250 °C, this is an enormous reduction!

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                                                                                                             -Shahir Masri

10/10/11

Conserving Energy for Better Health

          How does flipping on your light switch affect your health?  To answer this, consider the way electricity is generated.  Typically, plants generate electricity using superheated water or steam to drive the rotation of turbines.  In much of the United States, power plants burn coal and oil in order to heat this water.  Known as fossil fuels, coal and oil unfortunately contain a number of toxic compounds such as mercury.  When plants burn fossil fuels, these chemicals are released into the atmosphere and in turn affect our health.  If you think you’re not at risk simply because you don’t live near a power plant, think again.  These compounds, when released into the air, are rather efficiently transported around the world via jet streams and other weather systems.  That said, since the industrial revolution, global mercury concentrations have increased 3 to 6 times that of estimated pre-industrial levels. 


          To improve health as a population, it’s important to minimize air pollution generated by our energy industry by making an effort to cut unnecessary energy wasting in your home and workplace.  Some tips to reduce such waste are listed below.  Please write other good tips in the “comments” section!

  1. Avoid leaving random house lights on in rooms which nobody is occupying. 
  2. Unplug your cell phone chargers from the wall when you’re not charging your phone (the charger by itself uses electricity). 
  3. Replace your conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).  They use less power and often last longer!
  4. Don’t blast your AC when you’re not home.
  5. Purchase energy-efficient appliances and unplug appliances that are rarely used.
  6. Push congress to tighten power plant emissions regulations and explore cleaner energy options by contacting your state representatives.
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                                                                                                 -Shahir Masri

10/3/11

Broccoli and Cancer

           To no surprise, the food we eat plays an integral role in determining our fitness and health.  Interestingly, broccoli, while perhaps not a favorite among people, has demonstrated remarkable disease-preventing qualities.  This vegetable contains a chemical called sulforaphane (SP) which, through experimentation, has been shown to protect against harmful bacteria.  Most notably, SP destroys H. pylori, a bacteria associated with inflammation, stomach cancer, and ulcers.  While antibiotics are often effective in combating H. pylori, this bacteria can evade such treatment by entering cells on the stomach walls only to reemerge post-treatment.  Studies at Johns Hopkins University, however, show that SP kills these bacteria even when “hiding” in stomach-wall cells.  What’s more, the concentrations of SP needed to achieve such a benefit can be obtained by eating broccoli (as opposed to an SP supplement).  Scientists have also found SP to inhibit stomach cancer in mice.  Unfortunately, boiling tends to reduce the presence of SP in broccoli.  Other methods of cooking such as steaming and stir frying, however, do not greatly reduce SP levels.
Broccoli
If you enjoyed this article and have a Yahoo, Google, or Twitter account, please join my blog!  Here you can leave comments and feedback.  Simply click the “join this site” button to the right, log in using your account info, and click “follow publicly.”  Thanks!!

           
                                                                                                               -Shahir Masri