Is It Bad To Eat Burnt Food?

We put the bread in the toaster and go to the bathroom. Or the meat on the fire and the cell phone just rings. When we return to the kitchen we realize that we have burned, we remove the burned part and problem solved. But although this habit seems innocent, eating burned food could pose a risk to our health. We tell you why.

The risks of consuming burnt food

Burning food generates certain compounds that are associated with diseases such as cancer. The best known substances that can be formed are four:

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons : they are formed when burning wood (and end up in smoked foods), in meats that are burned and cooked directly on the fire, or in burned fats.
  • Heterocyclic amines : found in heavily roasted meat and fish.
  • Acrylamide : It is formed in some foods rich in certain amino acids (such as potatoes) when they are heated to high temperatures.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products : These are formed in foods that have been exposed to high temperatures. They are found in fried, roasted, and toasted foods.

    Burnt chicken thighs

    Consequences of burning meat

    Beyond our particular tastes, preparing meat at high temperatures generates compounds that can be harmful to health.


    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed when the juice and fat of meat fall on fire. The resulting smoke causes these compounds to accumulate in the meat when it comes in contact with it. These substances present a harmful potential on the organism.

    That is why it is advisable to limit the consumption of smoked meat and fish, but also the use of barbecues. It is also necessary to avoid that the food comes into direct contact with the flame to minimize the presence of hydrocarbons.


    Heterocyclic amines

    In addition to hydrocarbons, when we fry or grill meat or fish at high temperatures, other harmful compounds are generated: heterocyclic amines. We do not know for sure what consequences they have for human health, but we do know that they can cause cancer in animals. In humans, the observational data that we have associate the consumption of deeply roasted meat with different types of cancer, but they are not conclusive.

    The prudent thing is, above all, not to eat burned food and to try to cook with less aggressive methods : sautéing, steaming or roasting at lower temperatures.

    Not only burned meat can be a problem

    Foods rich in carbohydrates  that also contain the amino acid asparagine, such as potatoes, if cooked at high temperatures, produce acrylamide. Acrylamide is formed as the result of a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction between the amino acid and certain sugars present in food.

    Burnt edge pizzas

    Although we know that acrylamide is carcinogenic, the main source of acrylamide in daily life is not potato chips … but tobacco smoke. It is advisable, however, to limit the amount of acrylamide from the diet. That includes not using the deep fryer often, and avoiding dough and other burnt foods.

    Keep in mind that the quality of your diet is closely associated with the risk of gastrointestinal cancer. Science has shown this relationship with regard to acrylamide intake. However, it is likely that other compounds derived from cooking food at high temperatures are also involved in this process.

    Avoid eating burnt foods!

    To ensure proper health, the best option is to choose less aggressive cooking methods. The fact of cooking on the grill, steamed or at low temperatures reduces the toxic compounds derived from the exposure of food to fire. In this way we help reduce the risk of developing diseases in the medium and long term.

    Remember that a good diet should be based on variety, in addition to being balanced from an energy point of view. Prioritizing the consumption of fresh food over processed food is a great advance in terms of maintaining health. Do not forget that many of the processed foods that we usually buy have been subjected to aggressive cooking processes where they were able to develop all these compounds that we have told you about.

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