Do french fries cause cancer? Very shocking, unbelievable, and yet, many studies based evidence constantly prove that our beloved crispy potato snack contains a cancer-causing agent called Acrylamide. Acrylamide, a potential carcinogen, and neurotoxin fall into a category of chemicals that can make a physician-scientist shudder. And it appears, most humans have been consuming it for ages. What is this chemical? Where did it come from? How aware are you of your health regarding this topic? Find out more by reading this article.
WHEN DID IT ALL START?
Back in 2002, French fry lovers around the world received a nasty bit of news: Scientists reported the presence of trace amounts of Acrylamide in many commonly eaten foods, including French fries, potato chips, bread, breakfast cereals, and even coffee. At that time, it was known to be converted to glycinamide when ingested, which causes mutations and damage to DNA and, thus, cancer, in lab animals, in high doses. A panel convened by WHO concluded that Acrylamide in food, rapidly absorbed from the intestine, was indeed a major concern.
Systematic studies have shown suggestions that dietary Acrylamide might increase ovarian and endometrial cancer, most of which are based on what people report about their diets. There’s a need for more blood-based research studies though.
If consumed by pregnant women, up to 50% of it obtained from the diet can be transferred to the fetus via the placenta and may cause a reduction in their baby’s birth weight and head circumference.
WHERE DID ACRYLAMIDE COME FROM?
Acrylamide forms naturally in starchy products during the process of frying, baking, toasting, and roasting, all of which are often necessary to create great flavor and texture – but at what cost?
It is formed as a by-product of the cooking process, specifically when starchy foods are cooked to above 120 degrees celsius or during the Maillard reaction. Maillard reaction is responsible for the browning of various meats when seared or grilled, contributes to the darkened crust of baked goods, the golden-brown color of French fries, and other crisps. In this reaction, the amino acid asparagine, which is found in many plant and animal food sources, is converted, in the presence of reducing sugars (glucose, fructose) and heat, to Acrylamide.
THE SAME REACTION THAT GIVES FRIED POTATOES THEIR PRIZED FLAVOR AND COLOR IS WHAT PRODUCES ACRYLAMIDE.
WHAT WAS DONE ABOUT IT?
In 2011, a group of scientists in the USA identified potato varieties that formless Acrylamide. Few of the most promising varieties have already replaced the old varieties in the food industry there. Currently, there are no maximum limits set out for Acrylamide in local regulations. However, benchmark levels for various food categories are set out in European Union regulation 2017/2158. There are many scientifically proven methods to reduce its content in commercially prepared potato chips or crisps.
The Indian government has been urged to introduce regulations limiting the usage of Acrylamide in food so that millions of Indians can be safeguarded from its unsafe levels. Results are yet to be seen.
SO DO WE ABANDON OUR FAVOURITE SNACK?
Acrylamide is often an unavoidable part of our diets. As consumers, we can follow these basic steps to reduce daily intake.
1. Cook food until golden yellow in color, no darker (brownish yellow). Try to minimize the surface area (discard the small ones).
2. Cook food according to the cooking and reheating instructions on the packaging. Generally, more Acrylamide accumulates when cooking is done for longer periods at higher temperatures.
3. Limit the use of certain cooking methods, such as frying and roasting. By boiling and steaming food, you can ensure that no acrylamide is formed.
If you are still worried, the FDA says that the best defense is to follow the general advice on healthful eating, including going easy on fried and fatty foods.
And as for french fries, you probably shouldn’t be eating them for a lot of other reasons than acrylamide content.
On a positive note in the end, McDonald’s had taken measures to reduce acrylamide content in 2017.
This content is a compilation of information from many trusted sites.