Have you ever heard of acrylamide? It’s a chemical compound used to make polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers, which, in turn, are used to manufacture or process several everyday items, including plastic and paper. It’s also a commonly used chemical in treating wastewater and drinking water. Unfortunately, acrylamide’s use is more widespread than most people realize.
According to the Food and Drug Association (FDA), acrylamide is a chemical reaction that forms between sugars and asparagine (an amino acid) in plant-based foods. High-temperature food preparation, such as roasting, frying, and baking, is what causes acrylamide to form – and from this sentence alone, we can imagine how many of our favorite foods and beverages contain it.
Acrylamide and Cancer Link
In experimental studies, animals exposed to acrylamide developed cancer. However, keep in mind that the researchers used higher acrylamide levels compared to the amount found in human food sources. Regardless, the FDA closely monitors levels of this contaminant to ensure people’s continuing health and safety.
Furthermore, the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens considers acrylamide as an anticipated cancer-causing substance based on the results of studies related to the aforementioned.
Foods High in Acrylamide
1. French Fries
Crispy on the outside and deliciously tender on the inside, this classic diner food is the leading dietary contributor to the general population’s acrylamide load. Opting for roasted or baked fries won’t do you any good either since these cooking methods also trigger the formation of this suspected carcinogen.
Eat this instead: Steamed, boiled, and mashed potatoes
2. Potato Chips
A staple snack in most American households, chips are another potato product attributed to an estimated 49 percent of people’s exposure to acrylamide.
Eat this instead: Carrot or cucumber slices dipped in your favorite sauces or dressings
Toasted bread, in particular, contains significant levels of acrylamide, although you can reduce your exposure by removing the crust before consumption. If you love baking bread and pastries at home, ensure to use low-temperature recipes.
Eat this instead: Remove the crust, avoid toasted bread, or opt for bread leavened with yeast
4. Cookies, Biscuits, and Crackers
Whether from the supermarket, your local bakery, or fresh out of grandma’s oven, several baked goods are notable sources of acrylamide. Cookies, biscuits, and crackers account for 13 and 6.5 percent of people’s exposure to dietary acrylamide.
If you bake cookies at home or receive them from your family, you can minimize their acrylamide content by following recipes that use low baking temperatures, and ensure your cookies are far from looking toasted or burnt when you take them out of the oven.
Eat this instead: No-bake cookies and crackers
5. Processed Cereals
Corn flakes, all-bran wheat flakes, and other cereal products are another source of acrylamide in the American diet, accounting for an estimated 28.9 percent of exposure. However, the amount of acrylamide varies between brands and products.
If you and your family are pursuing a low-acrylamide diet, choose breakfast alternatives known to contain little to no acrylamide.
Eat this instead: Overnight oats made from nutritious steel-cut oats
6. Canned Black Olives
This may come as a surprise, but recently, researchers revealed that canned black olives contain substantial levels of acrylamide. The pasteurization techniques used in the canning process are attributed to acrylamide’s presence in this pantry staple.
California black olives, for instance, contain larger quantities of the suspected carcinogen compared to other well-known sources like fries and potato chips.
Eat this instead: Spanish or Greek-style canned green-ripe olives, which have lower acrylamide levels
7. Nuts and Peanut Butters
Some toasted and roasted nuts, including almonds and peanuts, contain a significant amount of acrylamide. The majority of peanut butters in supermarkets are also made from roasted peanuts, as such, this American favorite tends to have high acrylamide levels.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to toasted nuts, simply go raw. In addition to being free of acrylamide, raw and unsalted nuts won’t cancel out the good-for-your-heart benefits.
Eat this instead: Raw, unsalted nuts
A 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that coffee, far from being a minor contributor to dietary acrylamide intake, is actually its largest source for Swedish women. The authors found that brewed coffee accounted for 54 percent of their overall exposure to acrylamide.
Drink these acrylamide-free alternatives instead: Green coffee beans and immune-boosting smoothies
Acrylamide levels in food and beverages vary depending on the following:
- Cooking process
- Cooking time
- Product manufacturer
Moreover, cigarette smokers face a higher risk of acrylamide exposure than non-smokers, with markers in their blood being 3 to 5 times greater. Other sources of exposure are also possible but not fully understood at this time.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a conservative limit on exposure to acrylamide in drinking water supplies to protect public health. The FDA has also placed restrictions on materials that come into contact with food products, but further guidelines have not been implemented regarding levels of residual acrylamide in food itself.
What the General Public Needs From Researchers
To gain a more comprehensive understanding of acrylamide’s role in cancer risk, researchers must conduct epidemiological studies to assess the effects of dietary consumption over time. These findings should then inform how best to measure exposure and identify biomarkers within biospecimen collections that may provide insight into potential links between acrylamide intake and developing malignancies.
Furthermore, the scientific community should make a collaborative effort to examine whether both traditional and modern cooking processes (e.g. air frying, sous-vide techniques, etc.) create this compound, as well as determine whether acrylamide is present in any other foods beyond those previously tested.
Does Acrylamide in Food Cause Cancer?
The link between acrylamide and cancer development in humans is unclear. But if you consume fries, cookies, breakfast cereals, and several cups of coffee on a regular basis, dieticians warn that health issues could be in your foreseeable future. As always, moderation is key.
About New Hope Unlimited
If a cancer diagnosis has left you feeling lost and hopeless, New Hope Unlimited is here for you. As one of the leading providers of alternative treatment options for cancer, we are passionate about helping patients gain control over their healing journey with powerful, non-toxic therapies. Reach out today and learn what our cancer care team can do for you.