Thursday, April 19, 2012

Acrylamide in my Fries!

Till a decade ago, acrylamide was only known for its use in the manufacturing of products like cosmetics, plastics, textiles, paper making and in water treatments as well as tobacco industries, therefore, food was not analyzed for acrylamide. In 2002, the Swedish National Food Administration and University of Stockholm announced its discovery in food.

So what is acrylamide and where is it found?

Acrylamide is a chemical compound that forms naturally in a wide variety of foods. It is found in low levels in mainly starchy foods when they are cooked thus exposed to heat: fried, baked, grilled or roasted at high temperatures greater than 120°C.

Food Sources
  • Potato products (chips, fries)
  • Bakery products (bread, kaak, crusts, cereals, cookies, biscuits)
  • Roasted nuts and coffee
    French fries are one of the main
    contributors of acrylamide

Acrylamide concentrations can increase as a factor of time and temperature – thus the more time and the higher the temperature of your food preparation method, the more acrylamide can form.
In fact, more than 1/3rd of our diets contain foods with detectable amounts of acrylamide and 97-99% of people are exposed to acrylamide.

So why are we interested?

Once its discovery particularly in food, interest increased because it was previously classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as class 2A “probable human carcinogen”. In high concentrations, such as those found in industrial uses, acrylamide has been shown to cause DNA mutations and this has been proven as such in lab tests and rodent studies. It can also cause nerve damage in workers exposed to high levels of the substance.

However, unlike the high levels found in industrial settings, the low daily dietary exposure to acrylamide hasn’t been shown to cause adverse health effects in humans. Few studies have associated acrylamide with breast and colon cancer to be directly refuted by counter studies. Therefore, so far, there are no direct link between low dietary concentrations of acrylamide and the risk of developing cancer in humans.

Toast your bread to light brown
instead of darker shades
Nevertheless, to ensure that you are having low levels of acrylamide,
  • Store potatoes properly, not in a refrigerator – not to increase its starchy composition.
  • Cook using low temperature, and fry (if you must) food to a light golden color rather than brown/black color.
  • Pay attention to cooking times, don’t keep your food exposed to heat for long times.
  • Soak raw potatoes in water for 15-30 minutes before cooking – this would decrease starchy material, which would decrease their browning when exposed to heat.
  • Direct heat like frying, baking and roasting can increase the risk of acrylamide formation, especially for long time and high temperatures. Boiling food is less likely to produce acrylamide
  • Toast bread to light brown and always remove dark portions of crusted dough in manakish, breads, pizzas, toast, knefe, kaak and other baked products
  • Grilling is definitely considered a healthy method of cooking; however, try to avoid char-grilling starchy products (breads/potatoes for example) and remove all charred (dark brown/black) food portions

Keep in mind that there is not enough evidence to avoid particular food products. In fact, eliminating one of acrylamide-containing foods from your diet would not completely eliminate your acrylamide intake.
Still concerned? A balanced healthy diet can help in decreasing your exposure to acrylamide and in the same time increase your antioxidants intake, which can in return help in fighting cancer causing agents.
Have plenty of sleep, plenty of exercise, plenty of water and balance them with ample amounts of fruits and veggies, raw nuts, legumes and seeds as well as low amounts of sugary and fried saturated/trans fatty foods.