fries

You healthy foodies are probably thinking that acrylamide, with its scientific-esque name, sounds like yet another unhealthy chemical or additive used in processed foods. While the chemical part rings true, there’s more to acrylamide than just a bad rap—and it’s found in more than just processed foods.

Since researchers discovered acrylamide in food about 10 years ago (this chemical was previously better known for its use in industrial settings), a lot of buzz has surrounded the substance. Consumers have rightfully posed many questions about acyrlamide, and for much of that time the health-related facts about acrylamide have been unclear.

Clearing Up the Confusion

For years acrylamide has been well known for its use in the manufacturing of products like paper, plastics, grout, water treatment products and some cosmetics. In high doses, acrylamide is a known carcinogen and has been proven as such in lab tests and rodent studies. It can also cause nerve damage in workers exposed to high levels of the substance.

So, What’s It Doing in My Food?

Low levels of acrylamide occur naturally in all types of foods, from coffee to cereals and bread to nuts and some fruits and vegetables. Acrylamide also forms during the cooking process, in both home cooking and in food manufacturing. Acrylamide crops up specifically when “browning” foods, such as when toasting bread or when roasting and frying potatoes.

But unlike the high levels found in industrial settings, the low daily dietary exposure to acrylamide hasn’t been shown to cause adverse health effects in humans. Still concerned? A diet rich in a variety of foods, especially fruits and veggies, can only lower your exposure to acrylamide. Stick with (or amp up) your healthy eating habits for peace of mind.

You can also reduce the formation of acrylamide when whipping up your home cooked meals by frying foods at lower temperatures (or not at all!) and paying attention to cooking times, as acrylamide is more likely to accumulate when cooking at higher temperatures for longer periods.

If, and understandably so, you still feel concerned, check out the International Food Information Council Foundation’s list of resources about acrylamide.

Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson

Sources:

http://www.foodinsight.org/Newsletter/Detail.aspx?topic=NewsBite_A_Decade_of_Discovery_Acrylamide_in_Food

http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=Acrylamide_Resources

http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/foodcontaminantsadulteration/chemicalcontaminants/acrylamide/ucm053569.htm

image: jennifertomaloff