Hotpot warning in new cancer study

Local | Carain Yeung 12 Dec 2016

Hongkongers eat more than double the recommended amount of red meat a day in just one hotpot, Korean barbecue or barbecue meal dubbed the "winter trio," a survey has found.

Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society conducted a poll between October 29 and November 18 to study eating habits during winter.

The 1,013 people interviewed on average eat 157.7 grams of beef and 112.4 grams of pork in every "winter trio" meal. That is 2.7 times higher than the daily recommendation of red meat consumption of 73 grams - equivalent to two mahjong tiles.

While processed meats like sausages and luncheon meat have been listed as the highest level of group-one carcinogens by the World Health Organization, the respondents on average consume about 103.2 grams of such meat products in one "winter trio" meal.

"Studies suggest that the risk of colorectal cancer could increase 17 percent for each 100 gram portion of red meat eaten daily," said Rico Liu King-yin, chairman of the society's cancer education subcommittee.

Liu said there is also a 10 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer associated with the consumption of 30 grams of processed meat daily - equivalent to one sausage or one third of a piece of luncheon meat.

Red meat consumption should be kept to 73 grams or less a day and processed meat should be avoided, Liu said.

The clinical oncologist also warned the public to watch the cooking methods as heterocyclic animes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed when meat is cooked at high temperature, such as grilling or pan frying.

He said that these chemicals have been found to cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.

Tinker Kong Tsz-ling, a dietitian from Christian Family Service Centre, anaylzed some of the restaurant menus and found that the red meat portions of the one-person hot pot or Korean grill sets are two times higher than the daily recommended intake level.

While understanding that the diet guidelines are not easy to follow in winter, Kong suggested that the public should at least avoid hotpot soup bases high in saturated fats and sodium, such as pork bones, chicken and "Mala" spicy soup.

Vegetables should be cooked first or even cooked separately to prevent absorbing the oil from the meat.

"Eat more vegetables, mushrooms and soya products. The intake of fiber and antioxidants can reduce cell damage by free radicals, thus helping to reduce risks of getting cancer," Kong said. "Try to consume not more than four slices of lean red meat."

A record-high 29,618 new cancer cases were recorded in 2014. New cases rose 2.8 percent on average in the past decade.

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