Definition

Acrylamide is a chemical that occurs naturally as a result of cooking high-starch foods via high-heat methods. It can be found naturally in other foods, notably coffee, and is also used in the manufacturing of high fructose corn syrup.

Health considerations

Acrylamide is classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” on the basis of animal studies. Experiments with animal subjects has shown it to have adverse reproductive effects, induce carcinogenic responses, and to negatively affect genetic material. It has been associated with increased incidence of tumors in multiple glands as well as possible neurotoxicity. Neurotoxicity at high intake has also been seen in humans, leading to cognitive impairment, muscle weakness, and loss of motor control. Acrylamide can cross the human placenta to interact with the fetus and has been associated with low birth weight and poor fetal growth.

Keep in mind

Baking, frying, grilling, and roasting are most commonly associated with acrylamide production; boiling and microwaving high-starch foods does not appear to produce acrylamide. Generally, the more browning of the starchy food, the more acrylamide can be assumed to have been generated. Acrylamide production is not a novel phenomenon, though it has only recently become a topic of study.

May be found in

Processed high-starch foods; baked, fried, roasted, and grilled high-starch foods; potato chips, fries, bread, crackers, coffee, cocoa powder, chocolate, black olives, prunes, dried pears.

References

Food and Chemical Toxicology
Environmental Health Perspective
Environmental Health Perspective 2
Food Standards Agency
Environmental Health Perspectives 3

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