Yet Another Lurking Link Between Foods and Cancer

New research shows that a high dietary intake of acrylamide can increase the risk of breast cancer. The study was the first epidemiological study using biological markers for measuring acrylamide exposure, and also the first to report an acrylamide/breast cancer link.

The study examined 374 postmenopausal women who had developed breast cancer, and an additional 374 healthy women who were used as controls. An increased acrylamide hemoglobin level doubled the risk of breast cancer.

Acrylamide is a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It was found to cause cancer in laboratory rats in 2002.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I first warned readers of the dangers of acrylamide nearly six years ago in April of 2002. Since then many other studies have been published, confirming the initial findings that acrylamide can cause cancer in humans.

For example, this study adds to last year’s findings by Janneke Hogervorst and co-workers from the University of Maastricht, who examined data from more than 62,500 women and found that increased dietary intakes of acrylamide could raise your risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer by 29 and 78 percent respectively.

How is Acrylamide Created?

Acrylamide, a “probable human carcinogen,” is formed in several foods as a result of a reaction between specific amino acids, including asparagine, and sugars found in foods when they reach high temperatures during cooking or processing.

This reactive process is known as the Maillard reaction, and occurs at temperatures above 212°F (100°C). As a general rule, acrylamide is formed in vegetable-type foods when you heat them enough to produce a fairly dry and brown/yellow surface.

Hence, it can be found in many common foods that are baked, fried, roasted or toasted, such as:

  • Potatoes; chips, French fries and other roasted or fried potato foods
  • Grains; bread crust, toast, crisp bread, roasted breakfast cereals and various processed snacks
  • Coffee; roasted coffee beans and ground coffee powder. Surprisingly, coffee substitutes based on chicory actually contains 2-3 times MORE acrylamide than real coffee 

Acrylamide is Not the Only Danger 

However, acrylamide is not the only dangerous genotoxic compound formed when food is heated to high temperatures.  

A three-year long EU project, known as Heat-Generated Food Toxicants (HEATOX) -- whose findings were published at the end of 2007 -- found there are more than 800 heat-induced compounds, of which 52 are potential carcinogens.

In addition to their finding that acrylamide does pose a public health threat, the HEATOX scientists also discovered that you’re far less likely to ingest dangerous levels of the toxin when you eat home-cooked foods compared to industrially or restaurant-prepared foods.

Additionally, the HEATOX findings also suggest that although there are ways to decrease exposure to acrylamide, it cannot be eliminated completely. According to their calculations, successful application of all presently known methods would reduce the acrylamide intake by 40 percent at the most…

For more in-depth information regarding their findings and consumer guidelines, I recommend reading their online report Heat-generated Food Toxicants, Identification, Characterization and Risk Minimization.  

How to Protect Yourself from Acrylamide and Other Toxic Compounds

Most of the problems with cancer-causing byproducts stem from factory farmed, highly processed foods in general. Ideally, you should consume foods that are minimally processed, and come from local, environmentally sustainable sources.

At the same time, over half of the foods you eat should be uncooked and eaten in the raw state. It may take you awhile to get to that point, but in the meantime, you can start by avoiding processed foods, which simply have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, such as doughnuts, all sodas, French fries, and potato chips. 

In addition, you can reduce your exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals by throwing away your Teflon-coated cookware.