Revisiting Acrylamide

One method to reduce acrylamide is to brown food to the least acceptable level.

Someone told me I shouldn’t eat potatoes because they contain acrylamide.

Acrylamide is not an additive or environmental contaminant but a natural byproduct of a reaction between carbohydrates and proteins in food. Acrylamide forms when food is heated. Boiling does not appear to be as bad as roasting, frying, grilling, and other cooking methods that use higher heat. There is also a time factor, the longer the food is exposed to heat, the more acrylamide can form.

The IARC classifies acrylamide as a Group 2A carcinogen, or a “probable” carcinogen. (Recall that IARC just classified glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup as a Grade 2A carcinogen.)

The person who told me not to eat potatoes is right, in one regard at least. Roasted potatoes do contain acrylamide. But so do lots of other foods, including breads, bagels, cereals, crackers, pretzels, chocolate chip cookies (must be the chocolate), popcorn, corn chips, potato chips, roasted sweet potatoes, chicken nuggets and other breaded fried meats, roasted almonds, roasted peanuts, peanut butter, roasted sunflower seeds, chocolate, coffee, black olives (may be due to pasteurization for canning), prunes, prune juice, dried pears, cooked carrots, cooked onions.1

Virtually any food that contains carbohydrate and protein has the potential to develop acrylamide when heated. You don’t even need much heat if you expose it for a long time, as in the case of dried fruits.

Humans have been consuming acrylamide for as long as they’ve been cooking their food. It probably hasn’t done more harm because our bodies can swiftly metabolize acrylimide and excrete it in urine. Glutathione, an antioxidant produced naturally by our cells, assists in this process. Certain spices including turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom; vitamins C and E; and the mineral selenium can increase glutathione activity.

Acrylamide may be in our food, but it’s not much compared to:

Cigarette smoking is a major acrylamide source. It has been shown in one study to cause a three-fold greater increase in blood acrylamide levels than any dietary factor.

1 FDA: Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Individual Food Products

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