Saturday, July 10, 2010

More on Acrylamide

I realize that I did not provide much information on how to avoid acrylamide, other than "don't eat french fries or potato chips," so this post will provide a bit more information about acrylamide, why it's in our food, and what we can do to minimize exposure.

As indicated before, acrylamide is a naturally occurring substance that forms during cooking of high-carb, low-protein foods like potatoes, breads, coffee, and nuts.  Most acrylamide in food is formed when a natural amino acid called asparagine reacts with certain naturally occurring sugars such as glucose.

The Health Canada website has a whole section on acrylamide.  They even conducted a study to determine how it was formed and subsequently published those findings: "Acrylamide in Foods: Occurrence, Sources, and Modelling" A. Becalski, B. P.-Y. Lau, D. Lewis, S.W. Seaman; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003; 51(3): 802-808.

Further, Health Canada makes some suggestions as to how to reduce the occurrence of acrylamide in foods you prepare at home:

  • Recent scientific findings suggest cooking french fries to a light golden color and using maximum temperatures of 175°C (350°F) when deep-frying and 230°C (450°F) when baking.
  • Do not store potatoes below 8°C (low temperature storage can increase the components that contribute to acrylamide formation).
  • Wash or soak fresh cut potatoes in water for several minutes before frying (this can reduce the components that contribute to acrylamide formation).
  • When toasting bread or baked goods:
    • Toast to the lightest colour acceptable.
    • The crust of toast or bread will have higher levels of acrylamide than the remainder, even though these levels are lower than those in french fries and potato chips. You may wish to remove the crust if it is dark or burned.
I am sure that occasional consumption of foods containing acrylamide isn't going to immediately cause cancer.  Certainly, diets that are full of deep-fried potatoes, bread, and coffee would put a person at higher risk for developing acrylamide-caused cancer.  This is just one more reason to eat these foods sparingly and in moderation.  Prepare and make your own french fries, if you must eat some.  Instead of buying roasted almonds, get a dehydrator and buy raw almonds and sprout and dry them - or roast them yourself at lower temperatures.  If you're a big coffee drinker, like me, maybe it's a good idea to avoid all other sources of acrylamide, to lessen your exposure.

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