PhotoNothing says summer like the smell of meat cooking on the backyard grill. It's an aroma best enjoyed with a cold brew in hand.

But now researchers say it would be a good idea to save a little of that beer and use it to marinate the meat. That could help reduce the formation of harmful substances in grilled meat that have been linked to colorectal cancer.

The substances in question are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons -- or PAHs, for short. They form when meats are cooked at very high temperatures, like on a backyard grill. And high levels of PAHs, which are also in cigarette smoke and car exhaust, are associated with cancers in laboratory animals, although it's uncertain if that's true for people.

Black beer is best

It has been known that beer, wine or tea marinades can reduce the levels of some potential carcinogens in cooked meat, but little was known about how different beer marinades affect PAH levels, until now.

European researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black beer ale, to well-done on a charcoal grill.

Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork. "Thus, the intake of beer-marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy," the researchers.

The study appears in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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