During the heating (above 120 °C) of certain starchy or sugary foods, acrylamide may develop, a substance that the World Health Organization classes as likely carcinogenic to humans. The European Food Agency also reports that dietary intake of acrylamide may increase the risk of developing cancer.

Children and young people would be the most vulnerable, firstly because they may be consuming a more than average amount of crisps and fries. But also because in them the supply of calories in relation to their body weight is greater than in adults. According to current data, pregnant women are not at additional risk. No adverse effects of acrylamide on the fetus are known.

Cigarette smoke contains acrylamide, but the substance can also arise in the production of care products, pesticides and paints, among other things, and in the preparation of certain high-carb (sugary) foods. Adults get the most acrylamide through fried potatoes (such as fries, croquettes and roast potatoes), coffee (due to roasting coffee beans) and soft breads (such as sandwiches) or dark bread crusts. Gingerbread, rusks, toast and pizza also contain acrylamide. For children and adolescents, chips and fries are especially important suppliers.

The longer and the hotter something is baked, the more acrylamide is produced. Such temperatures can be achieved during grilling, roasting, baking, roasting, barbecuing and frying. Sugars and the amino acid asparagine are involved in the development of acrylamide. An amino acid is a building block of proteins. When heated above 120 °C, these substances react with each other (Maillard reaction), causing the brown color. In steamed or boiled potatoes and vegetables there is therefore no acrylamide. There is also no acrylamide in fish or meat that is baked. These products sometimes need to be baked just right to kill any bacteria.

However, according to various health organizations, there is no need to adjust the current dietary recommendations. If we eat healthy and varied, acrylamide occurs only to a limited extent in the diet. That amount probably doesn’t increase the risk of cancer. By consuming foods such as fries, chips, biscuits, coffee and coffee substitutes in moderation, you can limit your exposure to acrylamide.

Erica Delaney

Erica is an experienced nurse working in the central Florida area. She focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She is a mother of two with hobbies ranging from dancing to playing the piano.