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Acrylamide: Nutritional Impact and Advice

A Summary

April 19, 2010

Focus on a Healthful Diet

Dr. Julie Jones is a Professor Emeritus for the Family and Consumer Nutritional Sciences Department at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. She is an expert in nutrition with research in the areas of dietary fiber and carbohydrates, whole grains, diets and food safety. She is also past president of the American Association of Cereal Chemists International. Dr. Jones has shared her insights on health, diet and the nutritional impact of acrylamide.

Dr. Jones notes “The average person gets about 21µg of acrylamide through the diet per day, according to various health organizations. This number is considerably less than what these same organizations have determined to be the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI), or the limit before one may experience negative health implications. The TDI for acrylamide in order to avoid an increased risk of cancer is 182 µg/day for the average person and 2800 µg/day for the average person to avoid the risk of neurotoxicity.”  Global health and regulatory agencies agree that there is an adequate margin of safety between the average exposure to acrylamide and the TDI.

While specific recommendations regarding acrylamide from health organizations around the world vary, all recommend eating a balanced and varied diet.

  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages a balanced diet, low in trans and saturated fat and rich in high-fiber grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • The Norwegian government encourages the general population to follow a balanced diet with limited consumption of fat and salt; however, for those who consume excessive amounts of potato chips, they encourage a decrease in consumption.
  • Because total intake of acrylamide is so low, the Food Standards Agency in the UK advises that consumers do not alter their diets or cooking methods.

Echoing the messages from these health organizations, Dr. Jones suggests “consumers should focus on eating a healthful, balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of worrying about avoiding foods that are high in acrylamide.”

For those who would like to reduce their exposure to acrylamide, there are steps to take without cutting out entire food groups or drastically changing diet or cooking behaviors.  Dr. Jones recommends the following:

  • The “Golden Rule” is to cook food until it’s a light, golden brown color than to over-brown foods.
    Store potatoes are room temperature, rather than in the refrigerator.
  • Potatoes that are boiled or cooked in the microwave with the skin on yield very low levels of acrylamide.
  • Scrape off the darkly toasted or burnt areas from food before consumption.
  • Heat foods at the proper temperature and do not overcook them.

When it comes to preparing foods, it is important to understand there are benefits to heating foods, such as better nutrient availability in some cases, fewer microorganisms and a reduced risk of foodborne illness. These benefits outweigh any potential risk of a heat-formed compound such as acrylamide. Dr. Jones also notes that some people enjoy food only when it is prepared a certain way. For example, if roasted vegetables are the only way you or a loved one will eat vegetables, the benefit from eating them will outweigh any potential risk from the roasting process—just avoid over browning.

For more information and insights from experts on “Exploring the Facts and Myths about Acrylamide,” please click here.

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