Stay healthy with steak and wine

Steak is less likely to contribute to cancer when marinated in beer or red wine, scientists have found.

Fried and grilled meat have especially high levels of cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HAs), produced by hot temperatures' effect on sugars and amino acids.

However, various substances found in the kitchen can reduce HA content: research has shown that an olive oil, lemon juice and garlic marinade reduces HA levels in grilled chicken by 90 per cent. Red wine has also been shown to lower HAs in fried chicken.

Now scientists, led by Isabel Ferreira at the University of Porto in Portugal, have looked at the effects of beer and red wine marinades on fried steak. "Six hours of marinating in beer or red wine slashed levels of two types of HA by up to 90 per cent compared with unmarinated steak," New Scientist magazine reports.

For a third type of HA, beer was more efficient than wine, cutting levels significantly in four hours. Wine took six hours to have the same effect.

"Beer contains more water-retaining sugars than wine and Dr Ferreira says that may hinder the transport of water-soluble molecules to the steak's surface, where high heat converts them into HAs," New Scientist reported. "Tasters also preferred the smell, taste and appearance of beer-marinated steak."

Scientists have found 17 different HAs resulting from high-temperature cooking of meat. One study showed a strong link between stomach cancer and consumption of cooked meats.

People who preferred their beef medium-well or well done were more than three times more likely to suffer stomach cancer as those who ate rare or medium-rare beef. Other research has suggested an association between eating fried, grilled or barbecued meats and an increased risk of bowel, pancreatic and breast cancer.