Acrylamide (found in fried foods, breads, cereals) shown to increase cancers 29-78%
November 27, 2007
Acrylamide is a chemical that forms in certain foods, particularly plant-based foods that are rich in carbohydrates and low in protein, during processing or cooking at high temperatures. It is known to cause cancer in animals and was first confirmed to be found in food by the Swedish National Food Authority in 2002.
Various studies of food likely to contain acrylamide found wide-ranging concentrations in potato chips, french fries, cookies, breakfast cereals, bread, as well as other foods that are also processed at high temperatures such as coffee, roasted almonds, and grain-based coffee substitutes. Of the foods tested, potato chips and french fries tended to contain the most acrylamide, while lower levels were found in soft breads and cereals.
The amount of acrylamide in a large order of fast-food French fries is at least 300 times more than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows in a glass of water. Acrylamide is sometimes used in water-treatment facilities. ***
A new study indicates increased dietary intakes of acrylamide could raise the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer by 29 and 78 per cent, respectively.
Over 62,000 women in the Netherlands, aged between 55 and 69, took part in the research that is one of only a handful of studies showing significant increases in cancer risk, and highlighting the need for reformulation or process changes in the food industry to reduce the presence in food.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, both challenges and supports previous studies – while increased risks for endometrial and ovarian cancers were reported, acrylamide intake was not related to breast cancer risk, as reported by others.
Janneke Hogervorst and co-workers from the University of Maastricht examined data from 62,573 women taking part in the Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer.
Average dietary acrylamide intake for the population was assessed in a random sample of 2,589 women. The women answered a food frequency questionnaire. Smoking habits were factored into the analysis since smoking is an important source of acrylamide.
After 11.3 years of follow-up, the researchers reported 327, 300, and 1,835 cases of endometrial, ovarian, and breast cancer, respectively.
The average acrylamide intake for the sample population was 8.9 micrograms per day. The highest average acrylamide intake (40.2 micrograms per day) was associated with a significant increase in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. No effect on breast cancer was observed.
Hogervorst and co-workers also note that the risks were even more pronounced in people with no history of smoking: the highest average acrylamide intake was associated with a 99 per cent and 122 per cent increase in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers, respectively. Again, no significant effect on breast cancer was observed.
The contradiction between other observational studies and those of animal studies, where high acrylamide doses led to increased rates of cancer of the thyroid, testicles, breasts, and uterus, has been suggested to be due to excessive exposure of the animals to the chemical – the animal studies used doses 1,000 to 100,000 times higher than what humans are exposed to, and the animal studies provided the acrylamide from water, unlike humans who obtain acrylamide from food sources.
Following the Swedish study done in 2002 the FDA acknowledged that acrylamide “causes cancer in laboratory animals in high doses. As a result, acrylamide is considered a potential human carcinogen.” A plan of action was proposed.*
To grasp the personal implications of this, it is necessary to understand the often confusing facts and figures. Calculations done by Health Canada suggest that the average exposure of adults to acrylamide in food is between 0.3 and 0.4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. The estimations of Canadian exposure to acrylamide are consistent with exposures that have been calculated in other countries, including Sweden and the USOne kilogram is equal to 2.2045 pounds. A 150 pound person is equal to 68 kilograms. 68 X .4 = 27 micrograms per day. The average intake of acrylamide for a 150 pound person would be 27 micrograms. In the study cited above, the average acrylamide intake was 8.9 micrograms. Therefore, at 27 micrograms, there is an extremely high risk for the average person if no dietary adjustments are made.
Health Canada also notes that for young children 6-11 years of age, the average exposure is roughly twice the adult exposure. This is largely due to the fact that children consume more food than adults on a “per body weight basis.
To view a 2004 listing of acrylamide levels** in several food categories – snack food, french fries, cereals, potato chips go to: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/acrydata.html
**Levels are indicated in ppb (parts per billion). Parts per billion is way of expressing the concentration of a substance in air, water, soil or food.