For Better, Safer Burger, Add Rosemary

The herb cuts BBQ-linked carcinogens, expert says

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SUNDAY, June 26, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Fire up the grill, and don't forget the rosemary: New research finds that adding a bit of the herb extract to hamburgers cuts down on levels of a known carcinogen.

Kansas State University food chemistry professor J. Scott Smith found that rosemary can reduce levels of compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) in grilled hamburgers. HCAs are produced in protein-rich muscle foods that have been barbequed, grilled, broiled or fried. Epidemiological studies have linked HCAs to various cancers.

"Rosemary is a hot antioxidant right now. It's real popular," Smith said in a prepared statement.

Smith measured HCA levels in ground beef patties after the patties were fortified with two antioxidants extracted from rosemary -- rosmarinic acid and carnoisic acid.

He found that the extracts reduced two HCA compounds when the patties were cooked at 375 and 400 degrees F. Levels of two other HCA compounds were not reduced, however.

More studies are being be done to determine if levels of those two HCA compounds can be reduced by adjusting the cooking temperature, he said.

"We're going to continue this line of research and try to narrow down some of the chemicals in some of the spices, because they're loaded with antioxidants," Smith said.

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers advice about safe meat preparation.

SOURCE: Kansas State University, news release, June 8, 2007

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