Skin It or Skip It – Roast Chicken Skin High in Carcinogens

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This report came as good news and bad news rolled in one for me. It appears that my favourite rotisserie chicken — in particular the crispy skin (gasp! but that’s the best part) — has the highest levels of cancerous compounds amongst the common deli delights, according to a Kansas State University research. Other ready-to-eat meats that I believe many of us take rather frequently are relatively free of such poisonous chemicals.

While most of us would think that chicken is a healthier choice compared to other processed deli meats like ham and pepperoni, roast chicken skin actually contains 33 times more heterocyclic amines (HCAs) than hot dogs. In fact, it’s even higher in these harmful compounds linked to breast, stomach or colon cancer than bacon!

The study focuses on eight types of ready-to-eat meat products: beef hot dogs, beef-pork-turkey hot dogs, deli roast beef, deli ham, deli turkey, fully cooked bacon, pepperoni and rotisserie chicken.

Pepperoni scored the lowest HCA content (0.05 ng/g), followed by hot dogs and deli meat (still considered very low at 0.5 ng/g). Fully-cooked bacon had higher amounts at 1.1 ng/g, rotisserie chicken meat had 1.9 ng/g, and they contained all five types of HCAs tested. Rotisserie chicken skin was loaded with a whopping 16.3 ng/g of HCAs.

These carcinogenic HCAs are found in meat that is fried, grilled or cooked at high temperatures. But because chicken skin contains more fat & protein and less moisture, the HCA levels tend to raise as compared to the chicken meat or hot dogs which have higher moisture levels.

I guess I’m not going to skip the supermart or deli rotisserie chicken entirely (it’s too yummy and convenient). But we should definitely skin the Kenny Rogers before eating to prevent ‘fowl play’ to our bodies on the long term.