Adding a dash of rosemary extract
to ground beef appears to reduce the amount of cancer-causing
compounds created during the cooking process, according
to new study findings.
The investigators found that when they added antioxidants
extracted from rosemary to ground beef, the hamburgers
contained smaller amounts of heterocyclic amines,
or HCAs, carcinogenic compounds that form when muscle
meats like beef, pork and poultry are cooked at
Study author Dr. J. Scott
Smith of Kansas State University in Manhattan
explained that the antioxidants in rosemary are
also found in smaller amounts in other spices such
as oregano, sage and basil. The antioxidants likely
reduce HCAs by blocking the chemical process that
creates the cancer-causing compounds, Smith noted.
He added that people can purchase extracts of rosemary,
but they're fairly expensive. To keep meat safe,
Smith recommended avoiding cooking meat at extremely
high temperatures. Adding spices couldn't hurt,
he noted, and may make the meat even safer.
Previous research has also suggested that frequently
flipping burgers, trimming off fat and skin before
grilling meat, and removing charred portions after
grilling may reduce the amount of HCAs in meat.
Microwaving meat does not appear to create HCAs,
Smith added, because the temperature in a microwave
stays relatively low.
During the study, Smith added rosemary extracts
that contain antioxidants to uncooked, ground beef,
then fried the meat in a Teflon skillet. He found
that meat with rosemary contained smaller amounts
Smith said he did not know how much rosemary people
should add to obtain the same effects he saw from
rosemary extracts. He plans to investigate whether
spices in marinades also protect meat from HCAs.
He added that the study was funded by the Food
Safety Consortium, based in Arkansas, Iowa and Kansas,
and he has not received any money from companies
that sell rosemary products.
Smith presented his findings in March at the Pittsburgh
Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy
in Orlando, Florida.