Chips & Fries not just about Hips & Thighs
Updated: Mar 6, 2018
Mmmm chips and fried potatoes, you know what I mean?
Honestly, these are my favourite junk foods. Well here’s the bad news, they cause free radical damage. Free radical damage is thought to contribute to and sometimes accelerate aging of the body. Blah blah blah free radical damage, am I right? Seriously though something different actually happens when we eat chips and French fries (among other things) we ingest something called acrylamide. Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in certain foods during high temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting and baking. Acrylamide is created from the natural sugars and the amino acid asparagine present in food.
According to Health Canada, acrylamide is known to cause cancer in experimental animals during the processing of some foods or cooking at high temperatures. One study that I came across found that dietary exposure to acrylamide was associated with a mild decline in cognition or increased risk of poor cognition over a 4-year period in men but not women. The researchers propose that this could be due to acrylamide neurotoxicity on central nerve terminal degeneration, and harmful effects on several other areas of the brain (cerebral cortex, thalamus, and hippocampus). A neurotoxin is something that that is considered toxic or poisonous to the nervous system. Some neurotoxins have positive applications, e.g., anesthetics and analgesics.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies acrylamide as a potentially carcinogenic substance to humans. Research has shown that a high amount of exposure to acrylamide through ones occupation and/or environment can be neurotoxic. However, the neurotoxicity from cooked foods has yet to be determined.
Symptoms of Neurotoxicity:
· Brain fog
· Memory and concentration problems
· Headaches, migraines
· Sleep problems
· Anxiety or panic attacks
Wait! Don’t despair, there are things we can do...
The FDA recommends the following tips & tools to reduce acrylamide exposure:
· Soaking raw potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before frying or roasting helps to reduce the acrylamide formed during cooking.
· Store potatoes in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or pantry to prevent sprouting. Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can increase the acrylamide concentration while cooking.
· Cooking potato products to a golden yellow color rather than a brown color helps reduce acrylamide formation. Brown areas tend to contain more acrylamide. Generally, more acrylamide accumulates when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures. My personal tip is that if you want to eat potatoes then buy them from the grocery store, cut them up and make your own! Preferably baked.
· Toasting bread to a light brown color, rather than a dark brown color, lowers the amount of acrylamide. Again, very brown areas contain the most acrylamide.
· Acrylamide forms in coffee when coffee beans are roasted, not when coffee is brewed at home or in a restaurant. So far, scientists have not found good ways to reduce acrylamide formation in coffee.
So we’re probably not all going to give up eating chips and fried potatoes, but it’s always important stay informed of the impact that our food choices can have on our bodies. Want to start living a happier healthier lifestyle? Contact me for more information.
Acrylamide: Information on Diet, Food Storage, and Food Preparation. (29 Nov. 2017). Retrieved from
Acrylamide and Food. (2017, March 08). Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/chemical-contaminants/food-processing-induced-chemicals/acrylamide/acrylamide-food-food-safety.html
Bethke, P. C., & Bussan, A. J. (2013). Acrylamide in Processed Potato Products. American Journal of Potato Research, 90(5), 403-424.
Harris, J. B., & Blain, P. G. (2004). Neurotoxicology: what the neurologist needs to know. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 75(3), 29-34.
Liu, Z. M., Tse, L. A., Chen, B., Wu, S., Chan, D., Kow, T., . . . Wong, S. Y. (2017). Dietary acrylamide exposure was associated with mild cognition decline among non-smoking
Chinese elderly men. Scientific Reports, 7(1), doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06813-9.
Semla, M., Goc, Z., Martiniaková, M., Omelka, R.,& Formicki, G. (2016). Acrylamide: a Common Food Toxin Related to Physiological Functions and Health. Physiological Research, 66(2), 205-217.
Singer, R., & Johnson, D. D. (2006). Recognizing Neurotoxicity. American Association for Justice, 42(3), 62-69. Tardiff, R. G., Gargas, M. L., Kirman, C. R., Leigh Carson, M., & Sweeney, L. M. (2010). Estimation of safe dietary intake levels of acrylamide for humans. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 48(2), 658-667. 10.1016/j.fct.2009.11.048.
The Acrylamide Working Group. (n.d.), Retrieved from http://epic.iarc.fr/research/acrylamide.php
Zhigang, L., Ge, S., Chen, Z., Gongguan, L., Wanqiang, W., Tian, T., & Xuebo, L. (2015). Acrylamide induces mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis in BV-2 microglial cells. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 84, 42-53.