Professor of Nutrition and Director of Academic Planning at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Prof. Ignatius Onimawo, has said there is an increasing link between suya consumption and incidences of breast cancer in the country.
The don spoke during a nutrition workshop organised by Coca-Cola Nigeria for health writers.
He said, “Take breast cancer. Its incidence used to be very low among our women in those days and it was even tagged oyinbo disease because it was very rare in Nigeria or in Africa for that matter.
“But today, this is no longer the case. Breast cancer is everywhere. It is even killing people in the village. When we carried out studies to try to look at the aetiology of the disease, to find out where it all started, what we discovered was that we could trace the origin to suya consumption.
“During preparation of suya, the meat is cooked over an open fire, and oils from the meat undergo complex chemical reactions that produce toxins that are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in nature.
“Meat cooked over open flame often causes the formation of toxic compounds known as Heterocyclic Amines, HCAs, which are carcinogenic compounds. The more well-done a meat is cooked, the higher concentration of carcinogenic HCA’s can form.
The don said onions and other vegetables usually provided with suya had powerful antioxidants that could reverse the oxidative processes that cause cancer in the body.
He said women were more prone to cancer because they ignored the vegetables prepared with suya.
“Men eat onions, women eat suya: This is practically proven. Many young men, take girls out and buy suya to entertain them. Normally, apart from the spices sprinkled on the meat, the suya is served with slices of onions, cabbage and tomatoes in some cases.
“The onion and other vegetables are actually added to act as antidote to the effect of the oil from the suya. Onions neutralise the oxidative effect of the chemicals in the oil and help prevent cancer, but because the young man wants to impress the girl, he will be eating the onions, while the girl eats the suya. At the end of the day he is preventing cancer, unknowingly, while the girl is eating the cancer.
“Much of this information needs to be made more available. I’m not saying suya is bad, on the contrary, it is a great delicacy, but beneficial only when eaten in moderation and along with the onion and cabbage, he stated.”