You may have seen some recent press over a Food Standards Australian and New Zealand survey of acrylamide levels in our food supply. Acrylamide is a chemical that forms naturally when certain starchy foods are cooked and is part of the reaction that causes food to brown.
Foods such as potato chips, bread, some breakfast cereals and even coffee can contain appreciable levels of acrylamide.
In rats and mice, acrylamide is a carcinogenic agent, yet the levels they are exposed to are hundreds of times higher than what we eat in our diet. While acrylamide is a potential human carcinogen, there is little research to show a clear link, but food regulatory bodies are keeping a close eye on things.
So should you be quaking in fear at all the ‘cancer causing’ acrylamide you’re eating?
Firstly, humans have been eating acrylamide ever since the first caveman threw a Mammoth steak on the fire so it has always been part of our food supply.
Simple ways you can reduce your exposure to acrylamide include:
– Brown food to the lightest acceptable colour
– Cook food for the shortest time possible
– Consider pre-soaking or blanching potatoes prior to frying or baking and deep fry them below 175 C or bake below 230 C
– Make more use of steaming and microwaving in your cooking
Most of all, if you are eating mostly unprocessed foods that you prepare yourself, your exposure to acrylamide will be very low.
And when it comes to cancer risk, appreciate that the biggest factors that you have control over that can slash your risk of cancer include being as active as possible, maintaining a healthy weight, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, and not smoking.
Author: Associate Professor Tim Crowe