Acrylamide is a chemical compound that is formed when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures, such as frying, baking, or roasting. Acrylamide forms in food when certain amino acids, called asparagine and reducing sugars, are exposed to high heat during cooking methods. The reaction between these two compounds is called the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for the browning and flavour development in many cooked foods. The chemical compound acrylamide is produced as a byproduct of this reaction (1).
It is most commonly found in starchy foods such as potatoes and bread. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified acrylamide as a "probable human carcinogen" based on studies in laboratory animals (2).
The acrylamide content in food can vary depending on the type of food, the cooking method, and the temperature used. The highest levels of acrylamide are found in foods that are cooked at high temperatures for long periods of time, or those that are fried or roasted until they are very dark or burnt (3).
It's important to note that acrylamide is not added to foods, it forms during the cooking process, and is more likely to form in some foods than in others, depending on their composition.
There are several ways to reduce the formation of acrylamide in food:
Cooking at lower temperatures:
Cooking at lower temperatures can help reduce the formation of acrylamide. When frying, baking, or roasting, use moderate temperatures (around 300°F or 150°C) and avoid burning or browning the food.
Soaking foods such as potatoes in water before cooking can help reduce the formation of acrylamide.
Blanching, or briefly boiling a food before cooking it, can also help reduce the formation of acrylamide.
Overbrowning or burning food can increase the formation of acrylamide. Avoid letting food cook until it becomes dark or burnt.
Choosing fresh foods:
Processed foods and snacks are often high in acrylamide, so choosing fresh foods and preparing them at home can help reduce your intake of the chemical.
Eating a varied diet:
Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins and avoiding highly processed foods can also help to limit your acrylamide intake.
It's important to note that acrylamide is naturally present in some foods such as coffee, but the research does not indicate that these foods should be avoided. The key is to have a balanced diet, and not to overdo the consumption of processed foods.
Acrylamide in Roasted Nuts
Roasting nuts at high temperatures can lead to the formation of acrylamide. However, it is important to note that the levels of acrylamide found in foods, including roasted nuts, are generally considered to be low. Additionally, roasting nuts at high temperatures can also lead to the loss of some nutrients such as vitamin E, however, it can also improve the taste and texture of the nuts. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that if you choose to roast nuts at home, use moderate temperatures (around 300°F or 150°C) and stir frequently to prevent burning.
It is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the potential health effects of acrylamide and the optimal way to roast nuts. In any case, it is recommended to consume a varied diet and limit the consumption of highly processed foods that are known to contain higher levels of acrylamide. However, it is still unclear whether the levels of acrylamide found in food pose a significant risk to human health. Some studies have suggested that acrylamide intake may be associated with an increased risk of cancer, while others have not found a clear link. More research is needed to determine the potential health effects of acrylamide.
Written by: Alia Adrina Asri
Love Earth Nutritionist
BSc Nutrition (Hons)