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Acrylamide and Cancer Risk - How to Reduce Acrylamide in Our Diet

Updated on April 15, 2015
Space-filling model of the acrylamide molecule, C3H5NO.  Structural information (determined by microwave spectroscopy)
Space-filling model of the acrylamide molecule, C3H5NO. Structural information (determined by microwave spectroscopy) | Source

Food Safety - Standards and Guidelines.

Acrylamide is poison. How to avoid acrylamide and detoxify your body? Tips for less poison in our nutrition.

Acrylamide (short AA) is used in the industry to produce plastic and paper. It is used in coloring solutions (dyes), in synthetic fibers, food packaging, and for leather production. It is also widespread used for drinking water clarification and filtration, in sewage treatment, in the processing of ore, as a lubricant in the oil drilling industry, and as grouting agent.

Acrylamide is somewhat degradable in water. It happens on a chemical level, when it hydrolyzes to acrylic acid and ammonia; and on a biological level, while some bacteria use it as a source of carbon and nitrogen. Some studies are showing accumulation of acrylamide in fish.

AA is used as a thickener in cosmetics (in preparations for soaps, skin and hair care products) to give us the feeling of smoothness and shine.

Acrylamide

Molecular Formula C3H5NO This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Benjah-bmm27. This applies worldwide.
Molecular Formula C3H5NO This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Benjah-bmm27. This applies worldwide. | Source

How Toxic Actually is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a known carcinogen, genotoxin (a substance that can cause damage to or mutation in DNA), neurotoxin (is damaging to our nervous system), an irritant to the eye and skin. It's probably carcinogenic to humans, it causes weakness and ataxia in legs. AA does have a negative influence on fertility and is possibly a risk factor in developing atherosclerosis.

AA, not yet proven by science as a carcinogen in humans, was detected in food in the year 2002. Cancer in humans develops much slower than in tested animals. The science of course, can’t prove in the short time – just few years are not enough for such studies - if AA is carcinogenic to humans or not. However, it is known that tested animals developed a variety of tumors after prolonged exposure to high doses of acrylamide. It is also shown in studies in Denmark and the Netherlands that there is a carcinogen risk (endometrial, ovarian, and kidney cancer) related to acrylamide.

How to Produce the Toxin Acrylamide in the Kitchen?

Cigarette smoke is a leading source of acrylamide exposure. This is valid for smokers themselves and the entire smoking environment. We don’t know yet at which level AA is responsible for the carcinogenicity of cigarette smoke… However, it’s at least proven that cigarette smoke is carcinogenic.

It sounds that acrylamide is a toxic substance, and a heavy industry product. There is no place for it anywhere in our lives, especially not in our kitchen. This is what every mindful person would think. There is only a problem. We’re able to produce AA in our kitchen daily. How can we do it? Oh, this is very easy. Take some French-fries, heat the oven to the temperature higher than 325 F, cook the fries until well browned, and you have produced enough acrylamide to have health concerns. Especially when you prefer generally deep fried, dark brown looking French-fries, cookies, cakes, bread, crackers, pretzel-like snacks, cereals, or potato chips.

Acrylamide develops by grilling, frying, baking, toasting, and roasting plant based starchy foods at temperatures of 250 F or higher.

As I was researching for this article, I read that we've been exposed to acrylamide for thousands of years, and because of it, there is no reason to have a second thought about this poison in our diet. This is sad to read such an unprofessional statement. As we know, we don’t produce the same potatoes, grains, and vegetables that our ancestors did. We use now chemicals for farming purposes. Even our organic food now isn’t the same like hundred or thousands years ago. Sorry, we can’t say and prove it that we’ve always lived with acrylamide "happily together."

How to Eliminate Acrylamide in Foods.

  • Use moderate consumption of fried foods because frying causes the highest acrylamide accumulation in food.
  • Extend the baking time, by using lower baking temperatures. This will significantly reduce levels of acrylamide in bread, cookies, and cakes. Don’t eat anything what is partially burned. The brown or black color shows you that acrylamide amounts in this product are too high.
  • Products that are baked at high temperature to create high dryness (biscuits, crackers) have higher contents of AA. Lower levels of AA (for example shortbread) can be reached by longer baking time and lower temperatures (less than 250 F). This should be a preferred method for baking biscuits, crackers, and similar foods.
  • When preparing oven products, don’t overcook, bake until light golden color is achieved. Remove those brown, overcooked parts. When frying or baking smaller amounts, reduce the cooking time.
  • Toast your bread to a light golden color. Brown areas should be avoided because they contain lots of AA.
  • Potato chips - aim for the very light golden color.
  • Crisp bread, gingerbread, cereal based snacks, biscuits, dough based potato products – use asparaginase (Acrylaway or PreventASe); don’t over bake.

*****

About asparaginase. It’s enzyme. It helps to reduce AA in foods. It always has been a natural part of our nutrition. Many vegetables (chili peppers, beans) contain this enzyme.

*****

  • Yeast allows us to lower concentration of AA in baked goods. In products like bread, cakes, and cookies, replace raising agents with yeast (extended yeast fermentation is beneficent) this will reduce the amount of acrylamide.
  • Using infrared heating can reduce AA by 60 %. Steam baking during the final part of baking – last 5 minutes - reduces AA by 40 %.
  • Boiled potatoes don’t contain any levels of acrylamide.
  • In biscuits, acrylamide increases when the dough is aged too long – more than 3 hours - it means an increase of AA by 35 %. Avoid ‘dough aging’ or the reworking of aged dough. Avoid using fructose in dough too.
  • Always remove overbaked (brown or black) portions from your food before eating.
  • AA is formed in the crust of baked goods. Baking a larger bread loaf is a way to decrease the amount of acrylamide in your product. To remove the crust of your bread completely, may be helpful too. Some of my friends, never eat the bread crust, they always remove it. Probably they do instinctively the right thing.
  • It is better not to use roasted nuts, but if you can’t live without them, take at least the low-roasted ones! By the way, peanuts and hazelnuts contain much less AA than the other roasted nuts.
  • Dried fruits don’t have measurable amounts of AA. Some exceptions of it are dried prunes, coconut, and banana.
  • Roasted coffee contains acrylamide, which is transferred almost completely into the brewed beverage. The good news is that the amounts of AA in a cup of coffee are not very high. The bad news is that the small amount is accumulative over time.
  • Storing potatoes in the fridge can increase AA levels. The very interesting internet page, acryamidefacts.org says we should store our potatoes in a dark corner of a pantry. I’ll go now promptly and move my ‘root vegetables’. So, see you, I’m busy right now. Bye.

Sorry, I’m back again. I’m not finished yet. There is still something to tell you.

According to the World Health Organization Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, the tolerable risk to our health is 0.5 micrograms of AA per quart of drinking water. The European Union’s legal limit for drinking water pollution is only 0.1 micrograms. The guidelines established in the USA and Japan are different however.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) for acrylamide is zero. The Internet page of EPA informs, “…this level of protection is based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems.”

Here, is the link to EPA: water.epa.gov

There you also can read the following statement: “Some people who drink water containing high levels of acrylamide over a long period of time could have problems with their nervous system or blood, and may have increased risk of getting cancer.”

FDA says, “At this time warnings about AA aren’t in the public interest.”

Hmm... Could this statement contain a mistake? Could they mean "industrial interest"?

P.S.

Yesterday I baked brownies. The temperature I used was 250 F, and the baking time was one hour and fifteen minutes. I didn’t want to have a dry baking result, so I put a fireproof bowl with water into the oven. My brownies were great!

News About Acrylamide.

We are able to detoxify acrylamide in our bodies. However, our decontamination capacity is limited. We may suffer health problems when we overload our system with AAs. Cysteine (amino acid) cleanses and protects the body from heavy metals, chemicals, and free radicals. Foods with higher amounts of cysteine are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, sauerkraut, peas, all sorts of beans, lentils, red peppers, eggs, poultry, turkey, pork, onions, leek, soybean, sesame, garlic, oats, wheat germ, granola, ricotta, cottage cheese, yoghurt, spirulina, yeast, and garlic.

The outcome of this article is, eat more foods containing cysteine (see above), and avoid foods with highest amounts of acrylamide:

  1. French fries, chips, cookies, crackers, snakes based on wheat dough and sugar, grain-based coffee substitutes;
  2. Roasted and toasted cereals, coffee, cocoa (chocolate!). Yes, this is logically true. :-( We allow ourselves from time to time to have some cocoa… like right now! But seriously, I think I’m going to drink more tea in the future. :-|

Worried About Acrylamide

© 2010 Maria Janta-Cooper

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    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thank you Thomas for visiting. This is a good idea not to burn your toast or tortilla. I didn't find much information about acrylamide and tap water in the UK. Possible information may be here (though, nothing about AA):

      http://dwi.defra.gov.uk/index.htm

      Also very interesting information is from 2011 " Acrylamide in Drinking-water, WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality."

      http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/che...

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 

      6 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for the heads up about this chemical. I drink quite a bit of tap water so I guess that puts me at risk. I will take extra care not to burn my tortillas or toast now though!

    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi Stacie, thank you for visiting :-) In the past, I was, like you, storing my potatoes in the fridge and had the feeling that there was the best place for them. However, my husband (who most of the time prepares our food) stores them - instinctively right - under the kitchen sink. When there is no pantry, it's the right place, dry, dark and actually not very warm.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      6 years ago

      Well I do most of what you recommended except for the potatoes. I do store them in the fridge but now may consider putting them back in the pantry after reading this.

    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thank you Hmmm for your comment. I didn't know that about Korean food. It is sure more heathy to live that way :)

    • profile image

      Hmmm 

      6 years ago

      I think what americans think it is easier and faster way to cook food is so harmful to them and they can't acknowledge it. For korean food, we never bake. We barely fry doughs to make it for snack. I feel bad when I see those kids at high school or middle school eating the high caloried or fried unhealty food everyday. They don't have any choice but to be raised to eat that.

    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      7 years ago from UK

      Toknoinfo thank you for visiting and commenting :)

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for such an informative article. I will bookmark this to revisit because there is so much valuable information here. Thanks for sharing. Welcome to hubpages. Voted up and useful.

    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      7 years ago from UK

      Dr. Wendy, thank you for visiting. Your comment is highly appreciated :-).

    • Dr. Wendy profile image

      Dr. Wendy 

      7 years ago from Kentucky

      Very informative. Well written. Lots of people need to read this!

    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thank you very, very much :-)! I'll link you right now with this hub - I hope I'll manage it, if not, I'll ask in forum "how to" :).

    • brycewestervelt profile image

      brycewestervelt 

      7 years ago from Florida, USA

      Great Hub... will link you in when I add it to my 'AA' hub.

    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thank you very much! :) I've realized that we in the US aren't really well informed about acrylamide in foods, this is why I've written this article.

    • minnow profile image

      minnow 

      7 years ago from Seattle

      great hub! you have a good voice! thumbs up and useful. I'll be making some changes in our household as a result of this.

    • jantamaya profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      7 years ago from UK

      K9keystrokes, thank you. Two minutes ago I've made an important update to this article (see the last paragraph). Yes we should take AA somewhat seriously, without loosing the ability of having fun in life. :-)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      7 years ago from Northern, California

      This is quite a bit of information. I am unfamiliar with the Acrylamide you are writing about. It does sound like something we should all look a little closer into for the sake of our health. Nice work here.

      K9

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