Simmer down: Chemical that causes cancer in animals found in high-heated foods


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The high amount of calories and fat might not be the only harmful thing that comes with your french fries. But before you panic, let's take a look at the details.

High-heated foods produce a chemical called acrylamide, which causes cancer in animals and at some doses can be toxic to the nervous system in both humans and animals. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration suggested that acrylamide be avoided.

While this information is alarming, much research is still needed.
The National Cancer Institute identifies acrylamide as a chemical that serves as the building block for such products as papers, plastics and dyes, and the treatment of drinking water and waste water. In food, it’s found naturally mostly in those starches that are heated (fried, baked or broiled) above 248°F, such as french fries or potato chips. Acrylamide is produced during a chemical reaction between certain sugars and asparagine.

The American Cancer Society also states that tests to determine if acrylamide is a carcinogen are limited to two: exposing animals to large doses of it in a lab setting to see if tumors grow, and exposing normal cells in a lab dish to the chemical to see what happens. When animals were exposed to acrylamide, several kinds of cancers tended to grow.

The FDA, too, is conducting research to determine the effects of acrylamide. While the organization doesn’t outright tell people not to eat foods prepared at a level that would cause acrylamide to form, it does encourage people to consume a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry, and to stay away from produced substances.