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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on Acrylamide

In a previous article on acrylamide, I wrote that potato chips and French fries are best avoided for their high acrylamide content. What follows are answers to a few questions on acrylamide that were submitted by readers:

What other foods are high in acrylamide and should be avoided? - Tyler G.

According to a report written by a joint committee between the World Health Organization and the United Nations in February 2005, the following foods contain significant amounts of acrylamide, ranked from highest to lowest:

  1. Coffee extracts
  2. Coffee substitutes
  3. Potato chips
  4. Decaffeinated coffee
  5. Breads and rolls
  6. Pastries and cookies
  7. French fries
  8. Green tea made from roasted leaves
  9. Ground, instant, or roasted coffee
  10. Baby food (biscuits)
  11. Baked potato
  12. Breakfast cereals

Your recent health newsletter explains to avoid starchy foods that are fried or baked at a "high" temperature, such as french fries and potato chips. I was just wondering exactly what constitutes a "high" temperature. Is eating a baked potato, or oven-baked potato wedges okay? - Stephanie K.

Significant amounts of acrylamide can be formed when foods - particularly plant foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein - are cooked beyond 120 degrees Celsius. It is better for your health to eat steamed and boiled potatoes with a healthy dressing than it is to eat any varieties of baked or fried potatoes.

Please keep in mind that our bodies are exposed to harmful substances daily, and are equipped to deal with most of them and keep us as healthy as possible. The take-home message is to avoid eating French fries, potato chips, and other foods high in acrylamide daily.

Is it just the action of heating the starches themselves, whether they be baked or fried, that causes the acrylamide byproduct, or does it matter which starch it is, and if fried, what kind of oil it is fried in? - Carol

As of yet, not enough research has been done to answer this question definitively. What we do know is that the two most significant factors that influence acrylamide formation are length of cooking time and cooking temperature. Longer cooking time and higher cooking temperature increase chances of acrylamide formation.

I am not aware of any evidence that indicates that the type of oil that is used for cooking can influence the amount of acrylamide that is formed. In case you haven't read our guide to choosing healthy oils, please note that extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil are two of the healthiest oils that you can cook with.

Are the organic corn tortilla chips and the like made not by big corporations, but by smaller, known "good, healthy brands" any different? I know they mostly contain unhealthful polyunsaturated oils. But, what if they were made with, say, palm or coconut oil, would the acrylamide still be a byproduct? - Carol

Reports by the WHO, UN, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest do not specifically list any numbers for corn products, and I haven't been able to track down relevant numbers from other reliable sources.

Beyond cooking time and temperature, the amount of acrylamide that can be formed in carbohydrate-rich foods depends on how much sugar and asparagine (an amino acid) are present in the foods in question. Both organic and non-organic corn contain significant amounts of both, so are definitely susceptible to acrylamide formation when heated beyond 120 degrees Celsius. The type of oil used to cook organic or non-organic corn should not impact how much acrylamide is formed.

Does the same warning go for organic whole grain crackers that have surely been processed at high heat, and products like them, as well? There are so many of these types of products in health food stores. (I know they aren't really healthy. It is like choosing the best of the worst!) - Carol

Unfortunately, organic and non-organic whole grain crackers that have been baked at high temperatures can come with significant amounts of acrylamide. Certainly not as much as potato chips, French fries, and coffee do, but enough to cause health problems if consumed in large quantities and on a regular basis.

If you're going to enjoy a handful of whole grain crackers a couple of times a week, try having them with a fresh, homemade salsa or guacamole. The phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals found in fresh vegetables and fruits can increase the strength of your immune system and possibly provide protection against the genotoxic and neurotoxic properties of acrylamide.

Related Posts:

Acrylamide: What Is It, and Which Foods Contain It?

Top Twenty Acrylamide-Rich Foods


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So there goes the 'breakfast'.... I dont mean to be rude but everything seems unhealthy, I always believed cereals are good for me, I've always avoided french fries, I've always though coffee is good so long as you are taking it moderately and not getting addicted but hey, I'm wrong

Think about it, which food is healthy really? Non so far, everything has something not good, unfortunately not all of us are vegetarians and when God created man I dont think he meant for each one of us to be vegetarian. Maybe we should just eat and die, after all 'everyone dies, not everyone really lives'

I agree, I keep changing my diet to keep up with the present "what's best to eat" food like whole grain bread (the wheat is no longer good for you, too high in carb count with the way wheat is grown these days), tofu, portobello mushrooms, canned tomatoes and beans (bpa levels), etc. Just when I think I'm making a change for the better, some article comes out about what is lurking in the food and it's not good for you. I just better not see any negativity about Quinoa or Almond milk (made a great gravy with that the other day)...They are my latest tries and are working out great! and tea will always be part of my day!

Yep. The list of things to NOT eat just keeps growing. I have to add a bunch of food allergies to that list and I actually have stopped eating breakfast and most lunches because I can't find anything to eat. Eat fruit and it's too much sugar which feeds yeast etc. Cereals are all carbs even though they have lots of fiber. It just goes on and on.

As the other commenters have noted, many foods have something about them that makes them difficult to digest or toxic to our bodies in some way.

But health and eating isn't an either-or proposition. You won't stop eating grains and suddenly be perfectly healthy any more than if you drink coffee every morning you'll suddenly get cancer.

Health, like life, is a spectrum. The more foods you eat that are inflammatory or cancer-promoting, or that contain high levels of anti-nutrients and carcinogens -- well, then the higher your chances of having long periods of suffering and disease before you die.

How important to you is continuing to eat the same-old foods? How many years do you want to spend in hospitals getting cancer treatments?

You know how with some diseases, doctors tell people their chances of living? Such as, people who get treatment for this kind of lung cancer at this stage have a 14% chance of living past 5 years. Do you want to be in that 14%? Maybe it's worth the discomfort of change and keeping informed to be in the group that survives.

How about the people who never get those "normal" diseases, and die happily in their sleep at age 90? How do we get to be one of those? Can my diet have anything to do with it, and if it does, isn't it worth it to eat the things that DON'T have ANY carcinogens in them?

To me, it's worth it to eat healthy. It's all about quality of life.

... there are also the millions who die in their 90s who ate whatever they damn well pleased.

To a large degree, much of it is still a mystery. Many of us born in the fifties were bottle-fed "formulas" of canned milk and corn syrup. Horrors. And yet most of us grew and thrived.

My father had a saying, tedious to his children but increasingly meaningful to me as I age: Know yourself and be moderate.

Common sense, self-observation and moderation will take us far, without drama.

Sure, I'm here too, reading about the worrying acrylamides that seem to be everywhere! And OMG, I love my coffee! But the worrying itself could kill me prematurely (and dampen my enjoyment of life while I'm still living).

Common sense: Do we really need french fries? Will sharing a plate of them with friends a few times a year kill us?

Focus on learning to love REAL LIVE food and allow the rest of it to fall under the umbrella of "adventure," for sometimes sheer enjoyment. And then stop worrying.

What do you guys think of those, in terms of acrylamide? I asked the company that makes a lot of those, they did not respond.
A good rule is to eat the foods that your long-Lived ancestors ate, the stuff that has a lot of history of being eaten by people.