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Back Opinion The Deep You are what you eat

You are what you eat

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The researchers studied ready-to-eat meat products to determine their levels of heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. These carcinogenic compounds are found in meat that’s fried, grilled or cooked at high temperatures. Studies have shown that humans who consume large amounts of HCAs have increased risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.

WELCOME to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond.

I dipped into the medical file this week and discovered some good news and bad news about the food we all eat. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

Are you constantly craving McDonalds? Twinkies? Potato chips? Well a new research report suggests there’s someone you can blame: your mother. The findings of the study suggest that pregnant mothers who eat high sugar and high fat diets have babies who are likely to become junk food junkies themselves. This happens because the high fat and high sugar diet changes the fetal brain's reward pathways which changes food preferences.

The researchers studied two groups of pregnant rats fed either standard "rat chow" or a junk food diet made up of a selection of common human foods high in fat and sugar. After the baby rats were weaned, the pups from both groups were allowed to select their own diets from either the same range of junk food or standard rat chow. The researchers also measured the levels of "feel good" chemicals (dopamine and opioids) and the receptors acted on by these chemicals.

The scientists found that the rats whose mothers ate the junk food diet had higher levels of opioid receptors after they were weaned. This group also chose to eat more fatty foods as compared to the pups whose mothers ate the standard rat chow. This suggests that babies whose mothers eat excessive amounts of high fat, high sugar junk foods when pregnant or breastfeeding are likely to have a greater preference for these foods later in life.

Not only does this research help explain the ever-increasing rate of human obesity, it may also explain why some people easily resist fatty and sugary foods, while others seem hopelessly addicted.

It’s ironic somehow that the same mother who nagged you to eat your fruits and veggies may have caused your preference for junk food. I hope this convinces all you pregnant women who read this to go heavier on the green vegetables and a little lighter on the ice cream and Twinkies!

And in the light of junk food, recent research has found that there’s a vast difference in the health of the types of meat you eat. If given the choice between eating a hot dog or enjoying some BBQ chicken, consider the hot dog.

That's because hot dogs, as well as pepperoni and deli meats, are relatively free of carcinogenic compounds; but it's a not a happy ending for bacon and rotisserie chicken – especially chicken skin – because both have higher levels of cancerous material.

The researchers studied ready-to-eat meat products to determine their levels of heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. These carcinogenic compounds are found in meat that’s fried, grilled or cooked at high temperatures. Studies have shown that humans who consume large amounts of HCAs have increased risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.

The study focused on eight types of ready-to-eat meat products: beef hot dogs, beef-pork-turkey hot dogs, deli roast beef, deli ham, deli turkey, fully cooked bacon, pepperoni and rotisserie chicken. The researchers heated up the hot dogs and bacon in a microwave, cooked the pepperoni on a pizza either in the oven or a microwave, and used the chicken and deli meat as obtained. After doing so, they studied the meat to determine whether it contained five different types of HCAs.

Pepperoni had the least HCA content, followed by hot dogs and deli meat. Fully cooked bacon and the rotisserie chicken contained all five types of HCAs. Rotisserie chicken skin had significantly higher HCA levels, with eight times as much as the other products. That’s because chicken skin contains more fat and protein and less moisture, and HCA levels tend to increase as moisture decreases.

So, you want a healthier life for you and your children? Stop eating so much junk food and stop eating chicken skin!

Cruise on over to The Deep website at www.thedeepradioshow.com to learn more about healthy eating and many other topics. Enjoy!

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