Should You Avoid Backyard Burgers?

In a recent study, researchers say there may be a link between barbecued meat and low birth weight. Is this yet another food you should add to your do-not-eat list?

Barbecued meats

Avoid soft cheese... avoid deli meat... watch your sodium intake... watch the backyard burgers? Barbecued meat, which already has a tarnished reputation for possibly being carcinogenic to humans, has become the bad guy again in a Polish study that may link the summer staple to lower birth weight in babies.

The troublemaker

The problem in barbecued meats comes from compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known as PAHs. Foods cooked at high temperatures, such as on a barbecue grill, produce PAHs. To complicate matters, food in direct contact with the flame produce even more of these nasty byproducts -- they are possibly carcinogenic, which means they may cause cancer.

If that isn't enough to turn you off, the Polish researchers followed more than 400 pregnant women and discovered those with the most PAH exposure generally had babies almost a half-pound smaller. They said the compounds do transfer to the baby through the placenta and can also lead to increased cancer potential in the little one, as well.

What does this mean?

The researchers acknowledge, thankfully, that the study wasn't perfect. It was based on questionnaires relied on memory -- and be honest, since you've gotten pregnant or already have a child, is your memory the best? Mine definitely isn't. The researchers also said other factors may affect the children of mothers who ate barbecued meat.

They recommend further research be done. A half-pound may not sound like a huge deal, but when you apply it to everyone having babies, it may indeed be a big deal for little ones who would have weighed 6 pounds at birth, for example.

Should you avoid it?

I'd say moderation is key. I wouldn't gorge on grilled steak, burgers, kabobs and shrimp daily. The carcinogen factor is enough to turn just about anyone off. But occasionally is probably fine. Summer is fast approaching, and I love cookouts -- and not just because it's my husband's turn to cook. Just keep this in mind when reaching for seconds.

More on pregnancy nutrition

Autism possibly linked to obesity during pregnancy
Pesticides linked to smaller babies
Impact of pre-pregnancy nutrition


recommended for you