6 Grilling Tips to Avoid Carcinogens

by Columbia Surgery on August 22, 2014

177473555Summer may be winding down, but there is still plenty of time to gather with friends and family, kick back and relax as your dinner cooks away on the grill. And while this may be good, healthy fun, the way you cook your meat might not be so healthy. Because if cooked incorrectly, grilling can cause your meat to form Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), which studies suggest may cause certain cancers

From Cancer.gov:

“HCAs are formed when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars, and creatine (a substance found in muscle) react at high temperatures. HCAs are not found in significant amounts in foods other than meat cooked at high temperatures. Whatever the type of meat, however, meats cooked at high temperatures, especially above 300ºF (as in grilling or pan frying), or that are cooked for a long time tend to form more HCAs. HCAs […] become capable of damaging DNA only after they are metabolized by specific enzymes in the body, a process called “bioactivation.” Studies have found that the activity of these enzymes, which can differ among people, may be relevant to cancer risks associated with exposure to these compounds.”

To help combat the formation of HCAs on your meat, dietician Anne Ammons has come up with 6 grilling tips for safer meat cooking:

  1. Avoid flame flare-ups. Flare-ups—when burger the fire shoots up around your meat—greatly increase the chance of HCA formation.
  2. Marinate meat for 30 minutes before grilling several studies (here and here) suggest marinating meat leads to fewer HCAs.
  3. Limit portion sizes. Smaller pieces means shorter cooking time and less chance for HCA formation.
  4. Choose leaner cuts of meats. Leaner cuts cause less flare-ups, which means less chance for HCAs.
  5. Do not overcook* or burn meat. You may prefer your burger resemble a hockey puck, but excessive overcooking can increase the chance for HCAs. (*As always, follow the food safety recommendations for internal cooking temperatures for your meat. The USDA recommends an internal cooking temperature of 160 °F for ground beef. We’d hate to have you avoid HCAs only to get sick with salmonella.)
  6. Switch to fruits and vegetables. Grilled fruits and vegetables are delicious, and they don’t get HCAs!

For smarter grilling, it is never too late to try some delicious, nutritious grilled alternatives:

-        veggie burgers

-        portabella mushroom caps to replace a ground beef burger

-        squash, peppers, or sweet potatoes

-        grilled pineapple is a tasty dessert.

Grilled pineappleGrilled portabello mushrooms


Read more:

 Turmeric, Curcumin, and Cancer: What’s the Research?

• Cheers for Chia: the Ancient Superfood

 Following The Dietary Guidelines for Americans May Reduce Your Risk for Pancreatic Cancer


10 Facts You May Not Have Known About Heart Attacks

by Columbia Surgery on July 28, 2014

(1)  Most heart attacks happen on Monday mornings. In the early morning hours, blood platelets are stickier, a person is partially dehydrated, and stress hormones (such as cortisol) are at their peak.

(2)  Women have different heart attack symptoms (nausea, indigestion, and shoulder aches) compared to classic chest pain that men might experience.  25% of all heart attacks (especially those in women) go unrecognized.

(3)  Negative emotions are risk factors for heart attack.  Laughter is good for the heart!  It relaxes and expands blood vessels increasing blood flow up to 20%!

(4)  CT Scans of Egyptian mummies show that many had heart attacks debunking the myth that coronary heart disease is caused solely by modern day lifestyles.

(5)  A daily dose of aspirin may help prevent a second heart attack.

(6)  People who live alone are twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to those who live with a partner or roommates.

(7)  Heart attacks are 27% more likely to happen around your birthday.  They are also most likely on Christmas Day, December 26th, and New Year’s Day.

(8)   Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year.  This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

(9)   Drinking a diet soda a day increase your chance of getting a heart attack.  Read more about the CUMC study here.  Fruit-infused seltzer water is a good alternative to cool off and satisfy your sweet tooth.

(10)  Most importantly, hospital admissions of elderly Americans for heart attacks are on the decline mostly due to the accomplishment of preventive medicine, such as smoking cessation programs.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 911 immediately!  Time is of the essence.  Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Holly Andersen explain more about heart attack symptoms in this video and you can read more about the CUMC’s Preventive Cardiology Program here.


Could your thyroid problem actually be an autoimmune disease?

July 11, 2014

Tweet The American Thyroid Association estimates more than 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disorder. Of these disorders, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one of the most common, believed to be the leading cause of primary hypothyroidism in North America. But it may surprise you to learn that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic autoimmune […]

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ABC News: Having Heart Surgery Is Like Flying

July 10, 2014

Tweet On July 10th, Dr.Michael Argenziano, Chief of Adult Cardiac Surgery wrote a guest post for the ABC News Blog on why he became a heart surgeon: I’m a cardiac surgeon. I’m lots of other things, of course-a husband, father, and Little League coach-but I’ve spent the 30 years since high school graduation essentially working toward one […]

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Pancreatic Cancer Awareness (Hope) Day – November 8, 2014

July 5, 2014

Tweet The Pancreas Center will be holding their annual Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day this year on Saturday, November 8th from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM at the Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center. “Awareness” is the appropriate name for this day. Yet, after attending several of these, a better title would be the annual […]

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Honors and Awards

July 3, 2014

Tweet Congratulations to these faculty members for receiving outstanding awards this quarter Spencer E. Amory, MD, FACS Chief, Division of General Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center Dr. Amory has been awarded the 2014 Jerry Gliklich Award for Exemplary Clinical Care, formerly “Practitioner of the Year” award, by the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center Society of Practitioners. […]

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Esophageal Disorders Program Tackles GERD-Related Aspiration

June 25, 2014

Tweet Team develops novel technique to assess and prevent common problem that can be serious in some patients. The Esophageal Disorders Program at NewYork-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Medical Center has wide experience in treating adults and children with esophageal diseases. According to Frank D’Ovidio, MD, PhD, Surgical Director of the Lung Transplant Program, the esophageal team’s […]

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Columbia Surgeons make New York Magazine’s 2014 Best Doctors List

June 12, 2014

Tweet We’re proud to announce that New York Magazine has chosen 15 faculty members from the Columbia University Department of Surgery for its 2014 Best Doctors list. Michael Argenziano, MD (Cardiothoracic Surgery) Jeffrey Ascherman, MD (Plastic Surgery) Emile A. Bacha, MD (Cardiothoracic Surgery) Marc Bessler, MD (Bariatric Surgery) John A. Chabot, MD (GI/Endocrine Surgery) Jean […]

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Innovations in GI/Endocrine Surgery

June 7, 2014

Tweet Surgeons expand the use of the surgical robot to benefit patients undergoing complex pancreatic and gastric operations. Readers may have heard about surgical robots, which surgeons are using in increasing numbers across the country. At NewYork-Presbyterian/ Columbia, surgeons now use the surgical robot to perform gynecologic, urologic, colorectal, and a number of abdominal procedures. […]

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Cytoreduction Surgery and Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy

June 1, 2014

Tweet Offering long-term survival for patients with cancers of the abdominal lining Diagnosis of cancer that has spread to the abdominal wall lining (peritoneum) is typically considered a lethal diagnosis. But at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, many patients with these advanced cancers can expect long-term survival, thanks to refined surgical approaches and intra-abdominal chemotherapy. According […]

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