The roster of palatable panaceas has expanded again: Spicy barbecue marinades have joined the ranks of cancer-fighting foods, say Canadian scientists who took their research right to the grill.
Those familiar marinades — so redolent with hot peppers, ginger, garlic and spices — also contain generous amount of antioxidants, said Raymond Thomas, a University of Western Ontario biologist who led the research.
"Common marinades may be more than just tasty sauces — they can also provide a major source of natural antioxidants," he said. "Foods rich in antioxidants play an essential role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, inflammation and problems associated with cutaneous aging."
Mr. Thomas and two other researchers were specific. The team tested Jamaican-style "jerk" marinade, along with varieties containing garlic and herbs, honey garlic, roasted red pepper, lemon pepper garlic, sesame ginger teriyaki and "green" seasoning.
Two varieties contained the most antioxidants, the team found. The jerk and sesame/ginger/teriyaki combination "outperformed" the others, by virtue of the intensity of their ingredients.
The marinades are a convenient way to snag some of the cancer-fighting substances, Mr. Thomas said.
"Herbs and spices are excellent sources of antioxidants, but estimating consumption rates can be difficult considering they are not generally consumed in large quantities," he noted.
One counterintuitive finding: The percentages of antioxidants can be reduced the longer the marinade sits on the meat, Mr. Thomas found. He recommends brushing on extra sauce shortly before serving, or even use it as a salad dressing.
The research was published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, an academic publication. It adds to the ever-growing body of research that plumbs the serious medicinal properties of everyday edibles.
Curry powder, cinnamon, basil and oregano have curative powers, according to the University of Michigan. Almonds, cauliflower, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are top cancer fighters, according to Rutgers University, while red beans and wild blueberries top the U.S. Department of Agriculture's official list of antioxidant-rich foods.
Those concerned with bad breath after their beneficial meals have a new warning to consider, however.
A study released in January by the University of Melbourne in Australia claimed that mouthwashes "play an important role in causing oral cancer" because of their alcohol content — which is as high as 26 percent.
Michael McCullough, an associate professor of oral medicine who led the research, thinks the risk is great enough to warrant a warning on mouthwash bottles. Alcohol increases the risk of cancer by making mouth tissues more permeable to carcinogenic substances such as nicotine, he said.
The public also has been schooled by manufacturers to believe that the longer the gargle, the better.
"People gargle mouthwash in their mouth for a few minutes, which increases the exposure to alcohol and hence maximizing the harmful effects of alcohol," Mr. McCullough said.
Johnson & Johnson, which makes Listerine, dismissed the study shortly after it was released.
"This small review includes only a selective group of clinical data. Evidence from at least 10 epidemiological studies published over the last three decades strongly suggests that use of alcohol-containing rinses does not increase the risk of oral cancer," a spokesman said at the time.