Monday 9 June 2014

When Protein Turns Bad

High protein diets cause weight loss. The exact reason for this is not known, but may relate to the ability of protein to induce satiety. The weight loss caused by high protein diets carries health benefits, because being overweight increases the risk of developing a number of diseases. However, high protein diets can carry some risks of their own due to the cooking and preparation methods employed in some meat products.

Heterocyclic Amines

Cooking animals protein results in the meat becoming burnt. Both grilling and frying can cause this browing on the outer surface of the meat. Chemically, when the meat is heated the proteins in the meat become altered and form compounds called heterocyclic amines. Heterocyclic amines formed from heating animal proteins are detrimental to the health because they are known carcinogens and regular consumption may increase the risk of colon cancer.

Hormones and Pesticides

When animals are fed crops containing pesticide residues, they accumulate in the tissues of the animals. When we eat the animals the pesticides are transferred to us. In addition, a number of hormones are fed to animals to increase their growth, and these too are passed on to consumers in the meat. Many of these chemicals may stimulate the growth of existing cancer cells and may also be carcinogenic themselves.

Nitrites and Nitrates

When meat is processed nitrites and nitrates are often added as preservatives. Processed ham, corned beef, spam and meats in convenience foods all have added nitrites and nitrates. When ingested, nitrites and nitrates are converted to nitrosamine compounds, which are known to be carcinogenic. As with heterocyclic amines, nitrosamines can increase the risk of colon cancer. Interestingly, vitamin C and other reducing agents prevents the formation of nitrosamines.

Organic Meat, Lightly Cooked

Many nutritionists and health experts advise avoiding animals products because of the potential to ingest carcinogenic compounds. In isolation this is reasonable advice, but meat is an important source of vitamins and minerals and the amino acids in protein are required for growth. The obvious solution to this is to eat organic grass fed meat which is of higher quality and contains no pesticide or hormone residues, and cook it lightly to it does not become brown through burning.

Vegetable Protein

A number of plant foods are high in protein. The best examples are nuts and legumes, both of which also contain high amounts of dietary fibre. While nuts are also high in fat, legumes are not, and so if large quantities of plant foods are to be used as a source of protein, legumes are a better choice. Because of the way they are prepared and cooked, plant proteins do not carry the same health risks as some proteins of animal origin and can significantly contribute to protein intake.

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