𝙁𝙧𝙮𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙤𝙚𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙚 𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙥𝙨 𝙤𝙧 𝙁𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙝 𝙛𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙙𝙪𝙘𝙚𝙨 𝙝𝙞𝙜𝙝 𝙡𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙡𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙞𝙣𝙤𝙜𝙚𝙣 𝙘𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙙 𝘼𝙘𝙧𝙮𝙡𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙙𝙚.
It’s not just the high fat content that makes potato chips and French fries bad for you; the very process used to cook them produces potent carcinogens inside the potatoes themselves. Baking, roasting or frying any starchy food at high temperatures causes the sugars found in these foods to combine with an amino acid to produce high levels of a potent carcinogen known as acrylamide. Because all potato chips must be cooked at high heat, and because restaurants tend to cook French fries at high temperatures to bring them to the table more quickly, a healthy diet should contain only minimal quantities of these foods.
For people willing to go to a little extra eﬀort to make French fries at home, there are ways to minimise acrylamide content. Potatoes should be stored outside of the refrigerator in a cool, dark place. Before frying, they should be sliced, soaked in water for 15-30 minutes, then patted dry. They should be fried at lower temperatures for less time, until they are golden yellow—not brown.
ᴡʜᴀᴛ ɪs ᴀᴄʀʏʟᴀᴍɪᴅᴇ?
Acrylamide is a natural chemical that is formed when starchy foods such as bread and potatoes are cooked for long periods at a high temperature. When these foods are cooked (fried, baked, roasted, toasted or grilled) to above 120°C (250°F), they naturally form acrylamide. Acrylamide is produced as part of the cooking process and improves the texture and taste of foods. Although it is a naturally occurring chemical that has always been present in food, there have been recent concerns that increased exposure can cause adverse effects to health.
sʜᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴡᴇ ʙᴇ ᴡᴏʀʀɪᴇᴅ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ᴀᴄʀʏʟᴀᴍɪᴅᴇ ɪɴ ғᴏᴏᴅ?
Scientific studies on rats and mice show acrylamide to be a carcinogen (a substance with the potential to cause cancer) because of the way it interferes with the DNA of cells, although there is currently no conclusive evidence to suggest the same carcinogenic effect in humans. The Food Standards Agency are campaigning for greater awareness of the ways to lower levels of exposure to acrylamide in home cooking, and for the food industry to change their processing methods to do the same. Read more about the FSA's stance on acrylamide and the European Food Safety Authority's risk assessment of acrylamide.
The link between human consumption of acrylamide and developing cancer is much less clear. Cancer Research UK has said that human studies looking at acrylamide are inconclusive. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies acrylamide as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”. This does charity support the general advice to lower the amount of fried foods in diet (such as chips and crisps) in favour of eating a healthy, balanced diet.
The NHS advice states that it's possible that prolonged exposure through eating acrylamide-rich food for many years is a potential risk factor and points out that The World Health Organisation describes acrylamide as 'probably carcinogenic to humans'. But it also cautions that the risk of developing cancer through acrylamide is currently unknown, especially when compared to other lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and being overweight, which have much clearer links.
It is sensible to be aware of levels, limit where possible, and ensure other dietary and lifestyle guidelines are followed to remain healthy.