Uruguay's Big Barbecue Equals Bad Health

Its official, Uruguay is now the record holder for the world’s largest barbecue. The Associated Press reports:
Some 1,250 Uruguayan grillmeisters sizzled up 26,400 pounds (12,000 kilograms) of beef Sunday, beating a 2006 record set in Mexico.

"It's all so beautiful. It's a record," Guinness World Records judge Danny Girton said after the chefs, in white hats and aprons, smoked and barbecued their way into the record book with help of 6 tons of charcoal and 1,500 metal barbecue stands.

The barbecue was so big that firefighters were called in to light the grills and make sure the flames did not get out of hand. It beat the previous record of 17,600 pounds (8,000 kilograms) of beef, Girton said.
Wow, that’s a BIG health gamble. Barbecuing food—i.e. blackening it—comes with a HUGE price. Dr. Fuhrman talks about it in his book Eat For Health:
In the last five years there has been worldwide alarm in the scientific community after researchers have found that many of the foods we eat contain these cancer-causing compounds. Acrylamides form in foods that are browned by being fried, baked, roasted, grilled, or barbequed, but not in those that are steamed, boiled or sautéed in water. Water-based cooking prevents the browning or burning that forms these harmful compounds.

Even though these chemicals have been shown to be potent carcinogens in animal models, so many acrylamides are consumed in the modern world that good research documenting the extent of the cancer risk in humans does not yet exist. This topic is still being actively investigated in many different countries, but the risk is difficult to estimate because baked, browned, and fried foods are so ubiquitous in Western diets.
A backyard cookout is fun, but acrylamides aren’t your friend. This study from the Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition discusses the development of acrylamides:
The exact chemical mechanism(s) for acrylamide formation in heated foods is unknown. Several plausible mechanistic routes may be suggested, involving reactions of carbohydrates, proteins/amino acids, lipids and probably also other food components as precursors. With the data and knowledge available today it is not possible to point out any specific routes, or to exclude any possibilities. It is likely that a multitude of reaction mechanisms is involved. Acrolein is one strong precursor candidate, the origin of which could be lipids, carbohydrates or proteins/amino acids. Acrylamide is a reactive molecule and it can readily react with various other components in the food. The actual acrylamide level in a specific food product, therefore, probably reflects the balance between ease of formation and potential for further reactions in that food matrix. There are indications in support of that the Maillard reaction being an important reaction route for acrylamide formation, but lipid degradation pathways to the formation of acrolein should also be considered.
I’m sorry, but is some silly world record worth the health risks? Which are doubly bad when you consider all the saturated fat, more from Eat For Health:
Saturated fat comes from many food sources, including processed foods, meat, cheese, and other animal products. Thousands of scientific research studies demonstrate that saturated fat promotes both heart disease and cancer and powerfully raises cholesterol.1 It is exceedingly clear that avoiding all fat is not the secret to protecting your heart. It is avoiding saturated fat, trans fat, and processed oils.2 We get heart-healthy fats in their natural, high-antioxidant environment when we eat raw seeds and nuts. Indeed, avocado, nuts, and seeds are rich in fat. They may even contain a small amount of saturated fat, but their consumption is linked to substantial protection against heart disease. But, in the American diet, fats come primarily from meat and dairy, which are saturated, and we compound the problem by the low level of food derived antioxidants and phytochemicals we ingest.
Think about it, the people of Uruguay served up 26,400 pounds of health attacking food—EGAD!
1. Huxley R, Lewington S, Clarke R. Cholesterol, coronary heart disease and stroke: a review of published evidence from observational studies and randomized controlled trials. Semin Vasc Med. 2002;2(3):315-323.

2. Hu FB, Manson JE, Willett WC. Types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001;20(1):5-19.
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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Sarah - April 15, 2008 8:05 AM

I'm sort of skeptical. I mean, grilling meats is one of the oldest ways humans have of preparing food. Anthony Bourdain pointed out on one of his recent shows that wherever he goes in the world, he sees street vendors grilling meats for people to eat.

Although, I should say that I'm skeptical about the lipid hypothesis as well! But I'm still intrigued by Dr Fuhrman's work.

Gerry Pugliese - April 15, 2008 8:12 AM

Hey Sarah-

I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain's show, but he's a chef, not a nutrition expert. So, as cool as he is, I wouldn't trust him for my diet information.

Also, don't be lulled into believing any of that pseudo-science claiming that saturated fat is good for us, leave that to the fad diet charlatans and the low-carb loonies of the world.


Michael - April 15, 2008 9:54 AM

Just because people have been grilling for thousands of years does not mean it is healthy. You have to design a study to compare different methods and determine which one least negatively affects health.

CF - April 15, 2008 6:40 PM

I'm a fan of Anthony Bourdain as well but as mentioned, he's no nutritional guru... he follows more of the if it tastes good then it's good for you approach.

Grilling just makes worse the cooking of food in general which deteriorates the minerals, enzymes and most nutritional content...

Then there's meat in general, the limited nutritional content is not a human's first natural source of this, meat is an inefficient and harmful way to get nutrients....

Then add to it the horrific environmental toll that is caused by the meat producing industries....

Staying away from meat altogether = better health, pure and simple. Remember, humans were first gatherers only, hunting came later, as did grilling...and just as mentioned by Michael, just because it's been done for a long time, doesn't mean it's good for human consumption.

Gerry Pugliese - April 15, 2008 8:28 PM

Hey CF-

Very well thought out. Certainly better than my ranting comment. :)


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