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Recently Swedish researchers found very high doses of acrylamide in fried and baked foods. Acrylamide is a chemical used in forming plastic polymers used in many industrial products. The polymers made from acrylamide are harmless, but acrylamide has been shown to cause nerve damage including loss of feeling in the fingers and toes, pain, depression, and forgetfulness. Because of serious problems that have occurred with acrylamide, the World Health Organization has set rigid standards for human exposure.

The amount of acrylamide found in potato chips and French fries were 500 times the allowable amount allowed in drinking water. So the world gives a deep yawn and ignores the results. Two weeks ago a team of researchers in England reported that they also found very high levels of acrylamide in baked and fried foods. And last week a team from Norway has confirmed these results. A representative of the food industry told a reporter from the Washington Post that they are testing foods for acrylamide, but so far they have not found the high levels reported in Sweden, England, and Norway. According to the Washington post, a representative of the Grocery Manufacturers of America told their reporter that: "There is still no indication that the level of acrylamide found in some foods causes any human health risk, so we don't see at this point any reason for consumers to change their eating habits."

When you cook carbohydrate-containing foods with water, no acrylamide forms. However, when you cook carbohydrates at high temperatures without water, they turns brown and acrylamide forms. So boiling and steaming do not form acrylamide, but baking and frying do. My recommendation is for you to stop eating French fries and potato chips until the food industry reduces the levels of acrylamide to near zero. As for the other foods such as the brown part of bread and browned breakfast cereals, the amount of acrylamide reported is quite small and I see no reason to stop eating them at this time.

Journal for Agricultural and Food Chemistry, August 2002

Checked 5/3/07

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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