Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Liquid Smoke Bad For You?

Also Known As: condensed smoke



Short answer

Liquid smoke is most likely not bad for you. Although there may be a risk of cancer in the long-term due to the presence of PAHs, more research is needed to make this conclusive.



Long answer

Liquid smoke is usually made from smoke coming off of wood chips that is captured and condensed inside of a container. While this preserves the smoky flavoring, it also may lead to a risk of carcinogenic substances known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) being present. PAHs are also present when you cook over a cool grill. Studies show that liquid smoke increases the activity of P53, which is an indicator of damage done to the DNA. P53 is a protein molecule that binds to DNA. 

Now, don't rush to discard all of your liquid smoke products and take to boycotting just yet. First, PAHs are present in a very small quantity and with proper preparation (i.e. adding marinade or spice), are largely neutralized. 

However, if any carcinogenic compounds at all being in your food is a concern for you - there may still be an option available. Research concerning liquid smoke taken from rice hulls looks promising. When procured from rice, liquid smoke has antioxidants, anti-allergens, and anti-inflammatory properties without the PAHs that come from wood smoke. There's still research going on to determine how safe it is, but this is definitely an area that will be important to monitor.

Apart from the possible health benefits of rice-based liquid smoke, there are no other health benefits. Then again, liquid smoke is a flavoring and not a meal. 

Possible long-term side effects

  • cancer (inconclusive)

Commonly found in

  • barbecue sauce
  • jerky
  • soft cheese

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Written by Jeff Volling | 02-19-2016

Written by Jeff Volling
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