- Saturday, 11 August 2012
In 2002 researchers from the Swedish National Food Authority made a surprising discovery and shocked many people when they demonstrated that a known toxic compound was found in everyday foods; a compound that was not present due to some industrial accident or contamination but rather as a byproduct of food production. Concern arose because this compound is known to be a carcinogen. The culprit: acrylamide.
What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a compound that is found both naturally in certain foods and is used in the manufacturing of some plastics and other materials including some cosmetics and cigarette smoke. Known to cause cancer in experimental animals, acrylamide in the food supply is of concern.
How is acrylamide formed in food?
The chemical is formed during processing or cooking at high temperatures, mostly in carbohydrate-rich plant-based foods that are low in protein. Most acrylamide forms when naturally occurring sugars, such as glucose, react with the amino acidasparagine. Common foods that contain high amounts of acrylamide include French fries, potato chips and similar snack foods, crackers, breakfast cereals, bread, cookies and biscuits.
What is the risk to health and how can you reduce your exposure to acrylamide?
While there is a theoretical cancer risk of acrylamide in food, it is currently not possible to determine a precise cut-off level of risk for human health or to provide daily consumption limits. The reality is that roasted vegetables, bread, muffins and even the healthiest cookies have some amount of acrylamide - and many people who eat the healthier versions of these foods live long and healthy lives. By following a predominently nutrient-dense, phytonutrient-rich, healthy diet and lifestyle, the real risk from acrylamide is likely low. Further research to examine varying levels of consumed acrylamide and health outcomes is needed before any definitive answer can be given. A diet rich in minimally processed foods with limited deep-fried foods will ensure that acrylamide exposure is minimal.
Doug Cook is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. Doug truly understands the food, nutrition and wellness connection to health and well-being. He practices a holistic and integrative approach providing science-based guidance on food and diet along with nutritional supplements and natural health products where appropriate. Most recently, he co-authored the book Nutrition for Canadians for Dummies (Wiley 2008). In addition to his practice in clinical nutrition, he has a strong interest in sports nutrition and the role of whole food supplements and evidence-based ergogenic aids, such as creatine, branched chain amino acids and beta-alanine. Visit Doug's website: http://www.dougcookrd.com/
Photo Credit: Ian Britton www.flickr.com/photos/freefoto/3845038968/