Acrylamide is a chemical used primarily in sewage and wastewater treatment, paper production, plastic manufacturing and the processing of synthetic dyes. Cigarette smoke is also a major source of exposure. Acrylamide has been found to cause cancer in animals and is thought to also cause cancer in humans. Research has also shown this carcinogenic chemical to be prevalent in the standard American diet.
According to the National Cancer Institute, (National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health, 2008) Acrylamide forms in high amounts in foods cooked at high temperatures (greater than 248 degrees Fahrenheit / 120 degrees Celsius) usually via frying, baking, or grilling – especially foods high in carbohydrates, like potatoes, crackers, breads, dried fruits, even coffee heated to too high a temperature or left on a burner for a long period of time. Boiling or microwaving foods for short periods of time (in glass, not plastic containers) does not appear to produce as much acrylamide. Cooking or holding foods at medium heat (120 degrees Fahrenheit) for long periods of time can also increase the production of acrylamide. Some vegetables high in the amino acid Asparagine, like potatoes, tend to produce high amounts of acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures or for long periods of time.
Trace amounts of acrylamide are in our environment and food supply. But you can limit your exposure by taking the following steps:
- Don’t smoke or expose yourself to second-hand smoke.
- Avoid foods processed with high heat: chips, crackers, French fries, and deep fried foods.
- Don’t overcook your foods. Burnt toast, breaded and blackened foods, and char-broiled foods are high in acrylamide.
- Don’t eat foods held at a heated temperature for long periods of time. Coffee left sitting on a burner for hours, scalloped potatoes sitting on a steam table all through lunch, hash browns sitting under a heat lamp at a breakfast buffet – all sources of acrylamide.
- Store potatoes in a cool, dark place, like a cupboard or pantry, but do not keep them in the refrigerator. The colder temperatures of the fridge will increase acrylamide production in the potatoes once they’re cooked. Blanching potatoes before they’re baked or fried (plunging them into boiling water for a few seconds) has also been shown to help decrease the production of acrylamide.
In addition to limiting your exposure, you can improve your chances of combating the detrimental effects of acrylamide and other environmental toxins by supporting your liver and the immune system:
- Get plenty of sleep. Most people need 6-9 hours per night to maintain good health.
- Drink lots of water – at least 2 Liters each day. If you drink a 12oz glass of water when you get up in the morning, and one before each meal or snack throughout your day, it’ll be easy to meet this goal. This will help your body flush out toxins.
- Take a daily antioxidant supplement and support your liver with Milk Thistle extract. The antioxidant will help your body deal with free radical damage and the Milk Thistle will aid your liver in getting toxins out of your body.