Study finds new use for hamburgers

By Nissin Behar

Students might feel less guilty about eating junk food if a Wisconsin food researcher’s study of cheeseburgers and cancer is correct.

Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said last month fatty chemicals in grilled hamburgers and cheese prevent stomach cancer in laboratory mice.

But other researchers are skeptical about Pariza’s research and warned against rushing to the nearest fast food restaurant.

Sondra King, NIU coordinator of dietetics, nutrition and food, said hamburgers contain saturated fat and cholesterol. She laughed at the notion of cheeseburgers preventing cancer.

Pariza said the substance in grilled hamburgers and cheese that prevented cancer in mice is conjugated linoleic acid. He found CLA hindering the damaging effects of rare forms of oxygen in cells.

The amount fed to the lab mice was so high, people would have to eat a lot of meat to benefit, he said.

“If you give a human so much hamburger, they will get sick,” said Dr. Juvenal Argaez, from Cartagena Medical Center, 1505 W. Devon Ave., in Chicago. “They used to say well-done hamburgers caused cancer, now they’re saying the opposite. None of these studies are conclusive.”

He added that this does not mean college kids will be safe from cancer because they eat more “junk food,” he said.

Pariza first announced his scientific findings at an American Cancer Society seminar for science writers in March. He stressed his findings were completed with basic research and said it is too early to make dietary recommendations.

John Laszlo, senior vice president of research for the American Cancer Society, said this discovery is an example of how difficult it is to make recommendations concerning proper diet for cancer.

Three years ago, California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists reported some chemicals in well-done hamburgers cause cancer in mice. They also reported fried or broiled well-done hamburgers cause chromosome damage in rats.

Therefore, the scientists recommended in 1986 that people should refrain from eating well-done meat.

This is not the first time Pariza has had such a discovery. His earlier studies show an extract from grilled hamburgers was able to stop skin cancer when mice were exposed to a cancer-causing chemical.