Foods That Contain Acrylamide: A Health Hazard

· 7th September 2018
Nowadays, many researchers dedicate themselves to proving the 'hidden' health dangers that come from consuming acrylamide. Although there's still no consensus in this regard, many experts believe that this substance could be carcinogenic.

Acrylamide, a substance that’s harmful to people’s health, is mainly used as a component of certain chemical compounds. However, it’s also present in some foods. Therefore, humans may be consuming it daily.

In the following article, we’ll talk about what this substance is, where we can find it and why consuming is harmful for our health.

What is this health hazard?

Acrylamide is a chemical that can produce acrylamide and polyacrylamide compounds. Scientists discovered and officially registered it during the 1950s.

Burnt toast.

 

Since then, people have used the properties that this substance contains, in various industrial processes. This proved to be very lucrative for different economies.

In mid 2002, researchers at the University of Stockholm, discovered that some workers had developed high amounts of acrylamide in their systems. At first, their hypothesis was that these high levels were due to exposure of certain chemical compounds.

After years of monitoring these employees, the researchers found out that they had been ingesting the substance through their diets. This caused them to discover that acrylamide was also naturally present in some foods, triggering alarm worldwide.

Where can we find acrylamide?

Today, the production process of plastics, paper and dyes is the main user of acrylamide. We can also find it in some common household products, such as food packages, sealants (caulk, filler, etc.) and some adhesives.

Along with the previous functions, acrylamide is also used in water treatment (residential, black and drinking water). Cigarette smoke contains this substance as well and experts consider it an ‘indirect’ residue from the tobacco industry.

In addition, it’s produced during high temperature cooking processes or when you cook foods with large amounts of carbohydrates. But you can also find it in some canned foods and drinks.

What foods contain a lot of acrylamide?

Acrylamide is produced mainly when we expose foods that are rich in an amino acid called asparagine to high temperatures. This amino acid is present in foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates, such as potatoes, rice, corn, wheat and its derivatives.

Therefore, fried or baked products made from cereal flours are some of the main sources. For example: french fries, bread, cookies, sweet or salty donuts, breakfast cereals, etc. Other foods that contain large quantities of this substance are black olives, coffee and plum juice.

What are the risks for our health?

Scientific studies claim that food and cigarette smoke are the main sources of acrylamide exposure for the world population.

As you can see, we can encounter this substance daily through our diet. Smoking is also an important risk factor for many diseases.

And why is consuming acrylamide so harmful to human health? There’s still no consensus in this regard. But many studies suggest that by being exposed to this chemical, we increase the risk of different types of cancers.

Young girl in a hoodie smoking.

Because of these findings, the National Toxicology Program indicates that it would be correct to classify acrylamide as a human carcinogen. Experts recommend eliminating all of these substances from the production of food for human consumption.

When this chemical enters the human body, it transforms into a compound called, glycidamide. Many investigations have shown that glycidamide can cause DNA damage. This may explain why high levels of acrylamide can make the body more prone to developing cancer.

Many coal industry workers have shown significant neurological damage. Subsequently, scientist found that these alterations were related to exposure to this substance, used to clarify water in this industry.

Along with the information shown above, some controlled experiments have demonstrated the neurological damage that inhaling acrylamide can cause.