The addition of rosemary extract to ground beef actually reduces cancer-causing agents that can form upon cooking, according to a recent study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are mutagenic compounds that form when meat and fish are cooked at high temperatures—especially meats that are grilled, pan-fried, broiled, or barbecued. The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services categorizes HCAs as human carcinogens that can increase the risk of certain types of cancers.
Kansas State University researchers Kanithaporn Puangsombat and J. Scott Smith investigated the idea that reducing the amount of HCAs in meat cooked at high temperatures would reduce the associated health risks.
The study compared five rosemary extracts with varying concentrations of water and ethanol and their ability to inhibit HCA formation in cooked beef patties.
• Rosemary extracts were isolated with ethanol concentrations ranging from 10 percent to 40 percent
• The extracts were added directly onto the ground beef patties and cooked at two different temperatures: 400°F for five minutes each side and 375°F for six minutes each side.
Researchers found that all of the concentrations significantly decreased the levels of HCAs at both cooking temperatures.
• When beef patties were cooked at 400°F for five minutes per side, the rosemary extracted at the lower ethanol concentrations were most effective in inhibiting HCA formation.
• It should be noted that rosemary extracts prepared at these lower ethanol concentrations contain a mixture of rosmarinic acid, carnosol, and carnosic acid, and these compounds just may work together in inhibiting HCA formation. Thus, rosemary extracts may not be the same depending on what solvents are used.