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Marinating to prevent cancer

(ran NP edition)

Everyone knows that a good marinade can do wonders for the flavor and texture of grilled meat. Now it appears that marinating meat might help prevent cancer, too.

Studies by the American Institute for Cancer Research, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the link between diet and cancer, show that even a 40-minute bath in an acidic marinade stops the formation of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines. The compounds form when meat is cooked at high temperatures and particularly when it is charred.

Although scientists aren't exactly sure why marinades prevent the carcinogens from forming, a number of clinical trials with different marinades shows that acidity is key. Therefore, if you use a marinade for cancer-fighting purposes, make sure that it contains citrus juice or vinegar.

For years, the cancer institute has been urging people to take steps to reduce the possible cancer risk posed by grilled food. Precooking meat in the microwave, removing fat that causes grill flare-ups, using tongs to turn meat and being careful not to puncture the flesh are among the organization's other recommendations.