Should Pregnant Women Avoid Barbecue?

I had an amazing dinner last night. My husband grilled up a steak alongside yellow squash, zucchini, and red and yellow bell peppers. Delicious! Healthy! Full of good vitamins for me and my unborn baby! Right? Well…maybe not, according to a study published in this month’s issue of the science journal Nutrition.

Researchers at Jagiellonian University Medical College, in Krakow, Poland, concluded that women who consume grilled meat during pregnancy were are likely to have smaller babies. The study of 432 Polish women found that “the newborns of women who consumed any barbecued meat in the third pregnancy trimester showed significantly lower birth weight by 189.4 g [6 oz.].”

Cooking food at high temperatures produces large amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which experts have classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans. Food grilled in direct contact with fire contains even higher amounts of PAHs, according to the article. The researchers noted that the combination of PAHs from grilled meat plus PAHs in the air apparently resulted in infants born at a lower birth weight by an average of 7.56 ounces, or nearly half a pound.


The study isn’t conclusive by any means, but these initial findings will surely inspire more research.

Is this news enough to put you off grilled meat while you’re pregnant, or are you still planning your summer meals full of delicious barbecue?