This week, the Food Standards Agency in the UK launched a campaign to warn people about the cancer risks linked to eating burnt toast, over-roasted potatoes, and other starchy foods cooked at high temperatures. The risk comes from the compound known as acrylamide.
During animal studies in 2002, researchers found that high levels of acrylamide led to an increased risk in cancer. While these links have yet to be proven in human studies experts aren’t sure they will ever be able to provide the needed data since exposing people to acrylamide, just to test the outcome, wouldn’t be safe or allowed.
“Acrylamide is what makes bread and potatoes turn golden in color when fried, baked, toasted or roasted. The compound is formed from simple sugars, such as glucose, reacting with an amino acid, known as asparagine, when these foods are cooked at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius. Asparagine is found naturally in starchy foods.
If cooked for too long, these foods turn from golden to brown and eventually black. As they do, they produce higher levels of acrylamide, further increasing your cancer risk…”
Since most people likely haven’t heard about acrylamide, the goal of the campaign is to help people reduce their intake; highlighting the issue allows consumers to make small changes that can reduce their acrylamide consumption, while still eating all the starchy carbs and veggies they want.
The UK Food Standards Agency is recommending people:
- Aim for a yellow or golden brown color when frying, roasting or baking food.
- Follow cooking instructions on food packages to avoid overcooking.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Avoid keeping potatoes in the fridge before cooking them, as this can further increase acrylamide levels.
Just how big is the risk?
While the risk of developing cancer from “over-browning” food exists, it is important to remember that there are other lifestyle-related factors that have a MUCH higher impact on cancer risk- like smoking, being obese, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
Reading this news shouldn’t make you afraid, rather it should make you feel empowered because you are armed with the knowledge that can keep you healthy. It may seem hard to make good eating and lifestyle choices but you aren’t alone here. In fact, I changed my lifestyle and eating habits years ago and have never looked back. You can do it- we will be your cheering section!