Acrylamide is a potentially cancer causing compound produced when starches are browned during cooking. As reported in our Jan 2017 News Round Up concern about dietary acrylamide has led the Food Standards Agency to recommend the public ‘go for gold’ – avoiding medium and heavily browned toast, potatoes and pastries. But is this advice overblown?
‘Risk’ is always a slippery subject and human evolution does not appear to have equipped us to deal with it intuitively. The very word ‘risk’ is enough for many of us worry, or exclude a food ‘just to be on the safe side’. Hopefully, the following will put to bed any such concerns about the risk from acrylamide.
This graphic shows the commonest sources of acrylamide exposure:
One of the highest sources is coffee. Coffee consumprion, however, is associated with reduced all-cause mortality. The benefits across a huge range of measures from heart disease to dementia, increases with consumption, up to six cups per day, and has been shown to be independent of caffein. [See our post on coffee here]
If the risk from acrylamide was significant you would expect to see the reverse, with more coffee consumption linked to more cancer. As the data does not show this then the risk from acrylamide must be very small. Small enough to be countered by the beneficial phytonutrients in a cup of coffee.
Ah! If only all risks in life were so easily neutralised!
Looking again at the table above, apart from the coffee there are plenty of reasons to avoid the junk on that list: oxidised oils, gluten, n6 PUFAs… Acrylamide would be a long way down my list of concerns.