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Browned toast and potatoes are ‘potential cancer risk’ : How true is it?

Bread, Chips, and potatoes should not be cooked to a brown color, to reduce our intake of a chemical known as Acrylamide, which could cause cancer, food scientists are warning.

Bread, Chips, and potatoes should not be cooked to a brown color, to reduce our intake of a chemical known as Acrylamide, which could cause cancer, food scientists are warning.
Image Credit – Rex/Shutterstock

What is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide

Acrylamide forms when food with high level of starch is cooked for the longer period at a higher temperature. It forms as a natural chemical as part of the cooking process and improves the texture and taste of food. But recently, a growing concern shows that it can lead to adverse effects on health.

Is there anything to worry about the cancer risk?

When scientists performed experiments on rats, they postulated that acrylamide is a carcinogen ( the substance with the potential to cause cancer) as it can interfere with DNA of cells. However, this evidence cannot be implied to humans. Even Cancer Research UK insists that the link between human consumption of acrylamide and developing cancer is foggy and inconclusive.

Nevertheless, the Food Standards Agency are rapidly creating awareness to lower the level of exposure to acrylamide in home cooking and also suggesting the entire industry to do the same. It is part of developing the habit of eating healthy, balanced diet.

NHS advice states that it is however a risk factor to be exposed to eating acrylamide-rich food over the years, and mentions that WHO describes acrylamide as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. They also state that the link is unknown, especially when compared to other factors such as smoking, alcoholism and being overweight.

Thus, the evidence remains inconclusive. Yet, it is necessary to be aware of the levels and limit the intake of acrylamide when necessary to remain healthy.

Which of the foods contain acrylamide?

  • Bread
  • Roasted Coffee Beans
  • Cooked potato products
  • Cereal
  • Wheat
  • Processed foods such as biscuits and crackers

All these foods when grilled, roasted, toasted, fried or baked will lead to high amount of acrylamide. So, it is better to boil or steam.

What is Food Standards Agency suggesting to lower exposure?

  • Remain aware when cooking starchy food; don’t overcook them
  • Take duration and temperature of cooking into consideration
  • “Go for Gold” – toast lightly until the food is yellow rather than burnt
  • Vary diet from starchy food to fruits and vegetables
  • Cook according to instructions

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