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ADA: Broiling, Barbecuing and Roasting Meat May Increase Risk of Diabetes

Jul 1, 2017

Chemicals such as heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic amines (PAH) found in overcooked meat play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Recent studies have linked the consumption of red meats to cancer risk and other health problems. Chemicals like HCAs and PAHs are produced from cooking methods like broiling, barbecuing, and roasting meats. Specifically, HCAs are produced when meat is cooked at high temperatures thus producing amino-imidazo-pyridines (PhIP) and amino-imidazo-quinolones (IQ); compounds formed from creatinine, creatine, certain amino acids and sugar. Moreover, grilling meats over an open flame produces PAHs, which bind to meat. The release of chemicals like PAH and HCAs furthermore cause DNA changes which in turn can increase chances of cancer and other comorbidities. In addition to this, the high-fat content in meat increases hormone production, thus causing hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. As such, consuming well-done meats increases the risk of breast and colon cancers and in more recent studies, contributes to the development of T2D.


In addition to the consumption of high-temperature meats, consuming processed meats also significantly pose a risk to developing various comorbidities, especially diabetes. The reasoning behind this is the ability for processed meats to throw off the omega-6 –omega-3 ratio. These omega fats are essential in optimizing one’s health and reducing the risk of hazardous medical conditions. When meat is processed and overcooked, there is not only a release of PAHs and HCAs, but there is also a higher release of oxidized toxins in omega-6 and Omega-3 called Hydroxynonenal (HNE). These toxins, once absorbed in tissues, cause inflammation and increase fat oxidation in cells.

One case-control study was performed on 952 subjects with rectal cancer and 1,205 control patients. Results of this study showed that men and women who consumed processed or overcooked meats, had a greater chance of developing rectal cancer than those who avoided meat. In fact, according to studies performed in England and Germany, vegetarians were 40% less likely to develop rectal cancers than those who eat meat. This validates that there is a direct link between one’s diet and cancer.

Another study was conducted on the consumption of red meats and its link to T2D development. The study called “Cooking Methods for Red Meats Associated With Risk of Type 2 Diabetes,” focused on 59,033 women between the ages of 30-55 years without type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer who consume two or more helpings of red meat a week. The 26-year study observed different cooking methods of meat such as broiling, barbecuing, roasting, stewing, and boiling.

Data suggested that women who consumed both total and processed red meat >2x/week versus those who consumed meat <1x/month, had hazard ratios for developing T2D of 1.29 when broiling meat, 1.23 when barbecuing and 1.11 when roasting. Broiling and barbecuing red meats had a P-value of <0.001 whereas roasting methods showed P-values ranging between 0.02-0.05. Other preparations of meat such as boiling or stewing did not show any link to T2D risk. The reasoning behind this connection is found in chemicals like HCAs and PAHs that are produced in excess by broiling, barbecuing, and roasting meat.

It is suggested that when gut bacteria, which are needed to maintain gastrointestinal health, are invaded by toxins found by poor quality processed meat, the gut flora become harmful to the body. This is due largely in part to the antibiotics found in most meats, which cause a dramatic shift in the body’s gut flora, which cannot be overcome until dietary changes are made. Therefore the combination of bad gut bacteria and processed meats can greatly decrease insulin sensitivity, contributing to diabetes development.

The results of this study coincides with findings from previous studies suggesting that individuals who overly consume open-flamed/high-temperature meats, specifically via roasting and barbecuing methods, risk the development of various health problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. It is best to avoid processed and overcooked meats as much as possible, cook foods correctly on moderate to low heat, and eat foods rich in high quality fats like omega-6 and omega-3.

Practice Pearls:

  • PAHs and HCAs are mutagenic compounds found in cooking methods like barbecuing, roasting, and broiling meat.
  • Overproduction of PAHs and HCAs via open-flamed and high temperature cooking shows a link to the development of T2D.
  • This study with 59,033 women over a 26-year period without diabetes showed an increase in the development of various health problems like cancer, CVD, and diabetes.


[Anonymous. “Meat Consumption and Cancer Risk.” The Physicians Committee.    N.p., 02 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 June 2017.]

[Liu, Gang, Geng Zong, Frank B. Hu, Walter C. Willett, David M. Eisenberg, and Qi Sun. “Cooking Methods for Red Meats and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study of U.S. Women.” Diabetes Care. American Diabetes Association, 02 June 2017. Web. 27 June 2017.]

Nuha Awad, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate: Class of 2018; ACCP|FSHP