Acrylamide in food: How much do potatoes and toasts increase the risk of cancer?

Acrylamide in food: How much do potatoes and toasts increase the risk of cancer?

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Doctors are investigating the formation of acrylamide in food
Some time ago there was a warning from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that consuming burned potatoes or toast can increase the risk of cancer. For this reason, experts also advise to lightly brown toast, potatoes and other starchy foods. After that, the heat source should be switched off.

A chemical called acrylamide could increase the risk of cancer in some heavily browned or overcooked foods. Acrylamide consists largely of sugar, water and amino acids. If these substances are heated at too high temperatures, acrylamide is formed. This process is also known as the Maillard reaction. The higher the temperature or the time of heating, the higher the acrylamide content.

Where is acrylamide contained?
What foods contain acrylamide at all? In addition to fried potatoes, the chemical is also found in pastries, porridge, coffee, cookies and bread. In addition, acrylamide has also been found in tobacco smoke and is also used in various industrial applications, the experts explain.

Acrylamide can affect DNA in human cells
In its press release on acrylamide, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) describes the risk of cancer from the chemical in humans as insignificant. An increased risk of cancer is likely, but this cannot be seen as definitive, say the FSA experts. Evidence from various experimental studies in animals has shown that acrylamide could also interact with the DNA in our human cells, causing considerable damage, which can then lead to the development of cancer.

Long-term effects should be considered
The study of human studies shows no clear and consistent connection. The previous guidelines of the FSA are based on estimates of the risks for humans, which were created on the basis of the analysis of animal experiments. Doctors do not warn of the effects of a meal or occasional consumption. It's more about managing health risks throughout life, says FSA's Steve Wearne.

Does acrylamide affect the nervous or reproductive system?
In 2015, the FSA published a report on acrylamide. In this, the scientists found that the exposure to the chemical is also related to damage to the nervous and reproductive systems. However, the risk assessment in the current study came to the conclusion that the amounts of the chemical in food acrylamide may increase the risk of cancer, but does not affect the nervous or reproductive system, the scientists say.

You can still eat potatoes, but pay attention to the preparation and storage
In general, exposure to acrylamide can hardly be avoided. For this reason, the FSA does not suggest that people should avoid eating potatoes or bread. However, the experts recommend that you should consume these foods only slightly browned. They also advise against storing potatoes in the refrigerator. This type of storage could increase the sugar in the potatoes, which is involved in the so-called Maillard reaction.

How do I avoid risk factors for developing cancer?
It seems that almost all foods from meat to potatoes could lead to an increased risk of cancer. How can people reduce this risk? More research needs to be done to find evidence of acrylamide causing cancer. There are many other risk factors that have been well studied and are well known. Some of the largest sources of acrylamide are foods such as chips and cookies, in other words: foods that we shouldn't eat every day anyway. (as)

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