Lauren Hodge: If you were going to a restaurant and wanted a healthier option, which would you choose, grilled or fried chicken? Now most people would answer grilled, and it's true that grilled chicken does contain less fat and fewer calories. However, grilled chicken poses a hidden danger. The hidden danger is heterocyclic amines -- specifically phenomethylimidazopyridine, or PhIP -- (laughter) which is the immunogenic or carcinogenic compound.
A carcinogen is any substance or agent that causes abnormal growth of cells, which can also cause them to metastasize or spread. They are also organic compounds in which one or more of the hydrogens in ammonia is replaced with a more complex group. Studies show that antioxidants are known to decrease these heterocyclic amines.
However, no studies exist yet that show how or why. These here are five different organizations that classify carcinogens. And as you can see, none of the organizations consider the compounds to be safe, which justifies the need to decrease them in our diet. Now you might wonder how a 13 year-old girl could come up with this idea. And I was led to it through a series of events.
I first learned about it through a lawsuit I read about in my doctor's office -- which was between the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine and seven different fast food restaurants. They weren't sued because there was carcinogens in the chicken, but they were sued because of California's Proposition 65, which stated that if there's anything dangerous in the products then the companies had to give a clear warning.
So I was very surprised about this. And I was wondering why nobody knew more about this dangerous grilled chicken, which doesn't seem very harmful. But then one night, my mom was cooking grilled chicken for dinner, and I noticed that the edges of the chicken, which had been marinated in lemon juice, turned white.
And later in biology class, I learned that it's due to a process called denaturing, which is where the proteins will change shape and lose their ability to chemically function. So I combined these two ideas and I formulated a hypothesis, saying that, could possibly the carcinogens be decreased due to a marinade and could it be due to the differences in PH?
So my idea was born, and I had the project set up and a hypothesis, so what was my next step? Well obviously I had to find a lab to work at because I didn't have the equipment in my school. I thought this would be easy, but I emailed about 200 different people within a five-hour radius of where I lived, and I got one positive response that said that they could work with me.
Most of the others either never responded back, said they didn't have the time or didn't have the equipment and couldn't help me. So it was a big commitment to drive to the lab to work multiple times. However, it was a great opportunity to work in a real lab -- so I could finally start my project.
The first stage was completed at home, which consisted of marinating the chicken, grilling the chicken, amassing it and preparing it to be transported to the lab. The second stage was completed at the Penn State University main campus lab, which is where I extracted the chemicals, changed the PH so I could run it through the equipment and separated the compounds I needed from the rest of the chicken.