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Heterocyclic amines in cooked foods: Role in human health

Contract number : QLK1-1999-01197
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 3.639.417
EC contribution : € 2.913.955
Starting date : 1/02/2000
Duration : 36 Months
Scientific Officer : Jürgen Lucas
Project website : ilct/hca/hca.html
Prof. Dr Kerstin Skog
Lunds Universitet
Applied Nutrition and Food Chemistry
Center of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Getingevägen 60
221 00 Lund
Tel.: +46-46-222 83 19
Fax: +46-46-222 45 32
E-mail: Kerstin.Skog @

Heterocyclic amines (HAs) are formed at ppb level during cooking of meat and fish. Epidemiological studies have shown a correlation between the intake of fried meat and cancer. The carcinogenicity of HAs has been shown in mice, rats and non-human primates. The human risk of HA intake is not clarified, but depends on the level of exposure, dietary factors influencing their uptake and biotransformation, and on the capacity of the individual to handle HAs. Exposure will be determined by new methods for analysis of HAs in foods and for biomarkers of internal and bioactive dose. Endogenous handling will be studied using cloning techniques; critical human enzymes and polymorphisms/genetic susceptibility in the bioactivation and detoxification of HAs and individual DNA repair capacity will be characterised. Exogenous dietary factors modifying the biological handling will be investigated.


The overall objective is to increase our understanding of the impact of exposure to heterocyclic amines on human health. Three major objectives can be identified: Improvement of (i) the assessments of exposure to HAs, (ii) the understanding of endogenous factors modifying the health effects of HAs, and (iii) the understanding of exogenous (dietary) factors modifying the health effects of HAs.

(expected) Results and achievements

Exposure: Analytical methods for the determination of HAs in foods have been optimised and harmonised. Preliminary results of the most popular meat and fish dishes in Austria and in Sweden show that the precursors content in the meat has a marked influence on the formation of HAs during cooking. An analytical method for PhIP in human hair as a long-term biomarker for exposure to HAs has been developed. Ametabolite of PhIP, 5-OH-PhIP, was found in urine of exposed rats. Urinary mutagenic activity was measured after ingestion of meat with a defined amount of HAs, and two HAs were identified. The induction of tumours in Min-mice by PhIP has been performed.

Endogenous factors: V79 cell lines that co-express human enzymes have been genetically engineered and used to study the mutagenicity of HAs. Genotoxicity of HAs has been investigated with special emphasis on aminocarbolines in short-term tests. The metabolism of MeA€C has been studied in hepatic microsomes from rats and from humans. The mutagenicity of extracts of fried foods was studied through incubation with Lactobacillus strains. Germ-free rats were inoculated with human intestinal microflora and fed a standard or an experimental diet for four weeks to determine the genotoxic response.

Exogenous factors: New genetically altered V-79 cells have been used in two test systems, and it was possible to obtain positive effects with HAs. An improved protocol for the measurement of PhIP-induced DNA damage in mice and rats was established. Effects of Brassica vegetables on IQ induced liver foci in rats were studied; it is possible to use this method to investigate protective effects of vegetables. The effect of Brussels sprouts on urinary mutagenicity, induced by hamburgers, was monitored in a HA sensitive Salmonella strain. Preliminary findings showed that the HA induced effects decline after consumption of the vegetables.


Graz University of Technology
Department of Food Chemistry and Technology
Petersgasse 12/2
8010 Graz
Umweltmedizin Hamburg e.V.
Arbeitsgruppe für Toxikologie und Umweltmedizin
Vogt-Kölln-Straße 30
22527 Hamburg

Universitat de Barcelona
Departamento de Química Analítica
Marti i Franques, 1-11
08028 Barcelona
Danish Veterinary and Food Administration
Institute of Food Safety & Toxicology
Mørkhøj Bygade 19
2860 Søborg
National Institute of Public Health
Department of Environmental Medicine
PO Box 4404
0403 Oslo
Institute for Cancer Research
Environmental Toxicology Group
Borschkegasse 8A
1090 Vienna
Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung
Abteilung Ernährungstoxikologie
Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116
14558 Bergholz-Rehbrücke
Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz
Abteilung für Hygiene und Umweltmedizin
Obere Zahlbacher Straße 67
55131 Mainz
University of Vienna
Institute of Analytical Chemistry
Währingerstraße 38
1090 Wien

Fifth Framework Programme

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