Studies have shown that grilling meat produces carcinogens, which, of course, is something from which people should keep well away. While the summer screams for backyard parties and barbecues, it is possible to reduce the amount of carcinogens ingested from grilling with, oddly enough, beer. A recent study makes the claim that marinating meat in beer for several hours prior to grilling will actually reduce the amount of carcinogens created during the grilling process and result in a healthier product.

Beware, though. The type of beer used in the marinade makes a difference in the amount of carcinogens blocked. While a regular pilsner will suppress the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by about 13 percent, a non-alcoholic pilsner will suppress roughly 25 percent of PAHs. To inhibit the formation of these PAHs even more, use a dark beer. The same type of craft lager or ale that might be served as a beverage during the get together could be used to marinate the meat or 30 minutes to about four hours, which would reduce those nasty PAHs by about 53 percent.

Any reduction, let alone a 53 percent reduction, of carcinogens should be something for which to aim as PAHs have been known to cause birth defects, tumors and even reproductive problems. A 2002 report on the health concerns revolving around PAHs prompted the European Union to formulate safety standards of these chemicals in food products. While previous studies have proven that marinades made out of wine, tea, rosemary and beer have been found to reduce the levels of carcinogens in the cooked meat, until now there has been no indication that different types of beer have different percentages of success.

Researchers do not currently know why the different types of beer produce different levels of PAH blockage. The recent study which determined the effects of each type of beer on production of carcinogens used pork as the meat which was grilled. The pork was marinated in three different types of beer. including a non-alcoholic pilsner, a regular pilsner and a black beer. After marinating in their respective beers for four hours, researchers then grilled the pork to the well-done stage before testing the PAH levels. While the PAH levels were reduced no matter which type of marinade was used, the most dramatic reduction was seen in the sample which had been marinated in the black beer.

The suppression of PAHs was not caused by the alcohol content in the beer, as the non-alcoholic pilsner was shown to reduce the carcinogen levels to a greater extent than the regular pilsner. Researchers suspect it may be the antioxidant compounds found in each different type of beer. This theory may also explain why other marinades such as green tea, wine and rosemary also help inhibit the production of PAHs. More research into why black beer is a better inhibitor than a pilsner should produce a better understanding of what is causing the PAH suppression. In the meantime, cracking open a beer -especially a dark beer to use as a marinade makes grilling meat just a little bit healthier.

By Dee Mueller