What is acrylamides

Acrylamides: how dangerous is it?

Acrylamides: where is it found?

Acrylamide is formed in food when it is heated strongly (over 120 degrees Celsius). However, only if the food in question is rich in carbohydrates, because acrylamide needs both the protein building block asparagine and sugar for its formation - and carbohydrates are nothing else.

This explains why meat, for example, remains free of acrylamide even though it is seared. Chips, on the other hand, consist of potato slices that are high in both asparagine and starch. The deep-frying process then promotes the formation of acrylamide. French fries also easily form this substance if you do not pay attention to the temperature during preparation - regardless of whether you put them in the deep fryer or in the oven.

Acrylamide is a by-product of the tanning reaction, the so-called Maillard reaction. This gives products such as biscuits, pizza, crispbread, roasted breakfast cereals, toast, etc. their typical dark (more) color and their characteristic smell and taste. However, this also means: the more the food is heated, the more it has been browned, the greater the amount of acrylamide it contains. Coffee, which is also roasted during processing, also contains acrylamide, even if you wouldn't necessarily suspect it.

It is not easy to see in which foods and in which quantities acrylamide occurs. That is why various authorities, such as the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety, publish lists with the relevant information. If you eat 200 grams of potato chips, the acrylamide intake can be up to 200 micrograms, for example. A serving of french fries (240 grams) can be up to 144 micrograms and 20 grams of crispbread is still nine micrograms.

Acrylamides: why is it dangerous?

It is currently unclear how much acrylamide is harmful to health. There is no set maximum or limit. However, various expert reports suggest that this substance is bad for your health. They say that acrylamide in foods, or their (excessive) consumption, presumably increases the risk of cancer.

In animal experiments, acrylamide has been shown to be carcinogenic and mutagenic. So far there is no clear scientific evidence as to whether this also applies to humans. Nevertheless, experts advise to consume as little of it as possible to be on the safe side.

Acrylamides: how to avoid it

The good news: There are a few strategies to minimize acrylamide intake, for example:

  • Only brown potato and cereal products lightly golden. The darker, the higher the acrylamide concentration.
  • No sharp searing of potato and grain products. Roasting in the medium temperature range with a heat-stable fat (e.g. margarine) reduces the formation of acrylamide.
  • No acrylamide is produced during cooking and cooking. Accordingly, for example, fried potatoes from pre-cooked potato slices contain less of this substance than raw fried potatoes.
  • If you stay below 200 degrees Celsius (top / bottom heat) or 180 degrees Celsius (convection) when baking and use baking paper, the acrylamide formation is reduced. French fries should also not be placed on top of each other on the baking sheet and should be rather thick, as the harmful substance mainly forms in the outer layers and the surface is then smaller compared to the overall product.
  • If at all, deep-frying should only be done at a maximum of 175 degrees Celsius (use a fat thermometer, this measures more precisely) and add small amounts to the hot fat, as this reduces the frying time. It should be at least 100 grams, otherwise it will be too hot for the food.
  • Egg or egg yolk in baked goods such as biscuits also keep the acrylamide levels a little lower.
  • Potatoes should be stored at no less than eight degrees and have no green spaces, both of which promote the development of Acrylamides during later preparation.

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