Acrylamide is an industrial neurotoxic chemical that has been found in carbohydrate-rich foods cooked at high temperatures. Some of these include popular snack foods like potato chips, French fries and crackers. Other sources include teething biscuits, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, fast-food chicken nuggets, bottled prune juice and black olives. It was designated as a probable human carcinogen by IARC (1994) and USEPA (1988). Acrylamide appears to form when certain carbohydrate-rich foods are heated to high temperatures, through frying, baking or broiling.
How it occurs
Carbohydrate-rich foods processed at relatively high temperatures may contain considerable levels of the potential carcinogen acrylamide. Acrylamide is mainly formed through the Maillard reaction between asparagine and a reducing sugar at temperatures above 100°C. Non-reducing sugars may also be involved by causing the release of reducing sugars for further reaction.
Baking or frying carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes or cereals forms acrylamide, a much studied substance classified as a probable human carcinogen. An ordinary bag of potato crisps may contain up to 500 times more of the substance than the top level allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Animal studies have demonstrated an increased incidence of tumors in rats exposed to very high levels.
Q. I read the above on your site; but the world health organization on their site gives different numbers, while boiling and microwaving appear less likely to do so. Longer cooking times can also increase acrylamide production when the cooking temperature is above 120 degrees Celsius. The same number is given by national cancer inst. We don’t know exactly at what temperature acrylamide is formed in food. However it has so far not been found in food prepared at temperatures below 120 degrees Celsius, including boiled foods.How does cooking produce it? Asparagine is an amino acid (a building block of proteins) that is found in many vegetables, with higher concentrations in some varieties of potatoes. When heated to high temperatures in the presence of certain sugars, asparagine can form acrylamide. High-temperature cooking methods, such as frying, baking, or broiling, have been found to produce it, while boiling and microwaving appear less likely to do so. Longer cooking times can also increase production when the cooking temperature is above 120 degrees Celsius.
Avoiding acrylamide in food
Potentially toxic acrylamide is largely derived from heat-induced reactions between the amino group of the free amino acid asparagine and carbonyl groups of glucose and fructose in cereals, potatoes, and other plant-derived foods.Reduce your intake of potato chips or crisps, popcorn, pretzels, bread, bagels, baked goods, donuts, and biscuits. Avoid baking or frying at high temperatures. For information on a healthy diet.
How to reduce the risk from
exposure using natural foods and supplements
Acrylamide is formed through the Maillard reaction between asparagine and a reducing sugar at temperatures above 100°C. Several studies have shown that the addition of ascorbic acid could reduce the formation. Antioxidant of bamboo leaves and extract of green tea have strong antioxidant activity and have inhibitory effects upon transition metal ions and free radical-induced deterioration. The main functional components of bamboo leaves are flavonoids, lactones and phenolic acids, while those in green tea are flavanols. The addition of edible plant extracts in various products could be an effective approach for the reduction of acrylamide in many foods. A study looked into the effects of these antioxidants on the kinetics of acrylamide formation and elimination in a model asparagine-glucose system. Substrates were oven-heated at 180°C in low-moisture conditions and the final acrylamide content was quantified by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Both extracts effectively reduced acrylamide formation, significantly affecting formation kinetic behavior in the low-moisture model system, but not acrylamide kinetics during the elimination-predominant kinetic stage. Effect of natural antioxidants on kinetic behavior of acrylamide formation and elimination in low-moisture asparagine-glucose model system. Journal of Food Engineering 2008.
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 2015. Effect of garlic powder on acrylamide formation in a low-moisture model system and bread baking. The effect of garlic powder on AA formation in bread and bread quality was investigated. Adding a garlic powder mass fraction of 15 g to 500 g of dough significantly reduced the formation of AA and had no obvious effect on the sensory qualities of the bread.
Acrylamide and breast cancer
Dietary intake of acrylamide does not seem to influence breast cancer risk although not every study has shown consistent results. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2009.
Dietary intake of this chemical does not appear to be associated with colorectal cancer in women.
Several prospective studies have evaluated the association between dietary acrylamide intake and endometrial cancer risk with inconsistent results.
Dr. Janneke Hogervorst, from Maastricht University, the Netherlands, analyzed data from 120,000 men and women enrolled in the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer. During follow-up, 2650 patients developed lung cancer. Men whose diets contained high amounts of acrylamide were no more or less likely to develop lung cancer than those whose diets had low amounts. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2009.
Lowering levels with dietary supplements or herbs
Would taking a multivitamin supplement reduce the risk from acylamide exposure?
This is not easy to answer, I don't know for certain.
The objective of a study was to evaluate the protective effects of panax ginseng extract against acrylamide -induced toxicity in rats. Sixty adult female rats were divided into six groups included a control group, a group treated orally with acrylamide for 11 days, a group treated orally with Panax ginseng extract for 11 days and groups treated orally with Panax ginseng for 11 days before, during or after 11 days of acrylamide treatment. The results indicated that treatment with acrylamide alone resulted in a significant increase in lipid peroxidation level and LDH activity in brain homogenate as well as in serum CK activity, whereas it caused a significant decrease in SOD activity. Serum serotonin, corticosterone, T3, T4, TSH, estradiol, progesterone and plasma adrenaline were significantly decreased in acrylamide -treated rats. Treatment with Panax ginseng before, during or after acrylamide treatment reduced or partially antagonized the effects induced by acrylamide towards the normal values of controls. It could be concluded that Panax ginseng extract exhibited a protective action against acrylamide toxicity and it is worth noting that treatment with Panax ginseng extract before or at the same time as acrylamide treatment was more effective than when administered after acrylamide treatment.
Reducing levels in
foods with antioxidants
Many approaches have been looked into to reduce acrylamide in food, including agronomical factors, compositional parameters, processing and final preparation. A total of 13 additional parameters have been defined by the European Food and Drink Industry, known as the CIAA Toolbox parameters. These parameters do not include the addition of antioxidants to reduce acrylamide, but several studies have shown that the addition of ascorbic acid could reduce the formation. Antioxidant of bamboo leaves and extract of green tea possess strong antioxidant activity and have inhibitory effects upon transition metal ions and free radical-induced deterioration. The main functional components of bamboo leaves are flavonoids, lactones and phenolic acids, while those in green tea are flavanols. A study looked into the effects of bamboo leaf extract and green tea extract on the kinetics of acrylamide formation and elimination in a model asparagine-glucose system. Substrates were oven-heated at 180°C in low-moisture conditions and the final acrylamide content was quantified. Both extracts effectively reduced acrylamide formation.
side effects, and danger questions
Could taking antioxidant herbs or nutrients such as curcumin or alpha lipoic acid reduce the risk from acrylamide and make it safer with fewer side effects?
Perhaps, but I have not seen such studies.