Acrylamide in French Fries

Acrylamide in French Fries
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Human studies on whether acrylamide in baked and fried carbohydrates may be carcinogenic.

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So, burgers aren’t good for us, but what about the fries? In my annual 2002 update, I asked everyone to stop eating French fries and potato chips, tagging acrylamide one of the most important nutrition stories of the year.

Acrylamide is a neurotoxic industrial chemical used in the plastics industry, found in cigarette smoke, and, in a bunch of foods. The chemical is created when we fry carbohydrates. By law, a glass of water has to have less than 0.12 millionths of a gram, and fast food French fries may exceed that safety limit by 30,000%.

Acrylamide has been considered a “probable human carcinogen,” based on the fact that it causes cancer in lab rats. But so does saccharin. But the reason we don’t see warning labels on Sweet & Low anymore is because it turns out that male rats have a biochemical pathway, not shared by human beings, that turns saccharin into a carcinogen. But we can’t even extrapolate that to female rats; forget people.

But wanting to play it safe, so I said: “Look, they’re starting human studies now. We’ll know in five years if this is really a problem or not. In the meanwhile, better to stay away from French fries and potato chips.”

Well, it’s been five years. For humans, do you think it’s harmful? Harmless? Or helpful?

Acrylamide intake has now been linked to human kidney cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and human breast cancer. So, I encourage people to keep staying away from French fries and potato chips.

The industry is looking into ways to mitigate our risk by spending tons of R&D money into researching ways to decrease acrylamide levels. Almost as much money, perhaps, as they are spending trying to find better ways to get salt to stick to potato chips. Turns out cubic crystals evidently give the best adhesion.

This, however [photo of a bunch of bananas], remains okay.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

So, burgers aren’t good for us, but what about the fries? In my annual 2002 update, I asked everyone to stop eating French fries and potato chips, tagging acrylamide one of the most important nutrition stories of the year.

Acrylamide is a neurotoxic industrial chemical used in the plastics industry, found in cigarette smoke, and, in a bunch of foods. The chemical is created when we fry carbohydrates. By law, a glass of water has to have less than 0.12 millionths of a gram, and fast food French fries may exceed that safety limit by 30,000%.

Acrylamide has been considered a “probable human carcinogen,” based on the fact that it causes cancer in lab rats. But so does saccharin. But the reason we don’t see warning labels on Sweet & Low anymore is because it turns out that male rats have a biochemical pathway, not shared by human beings, that turns saccharin into a carcinogen. But we can’t even extrapolate that to female rats; forget people.

But wanting to play it safe, so I said: “Look, they’re starting human studies now. We’ll know in five years if this is really a problem or not. In the meanwhile, better to stay away from French fries and potato chips.”

Well, it’s been five years. For humans, do you think it’s harmful? Harmless? Or helpful?

Acrylamide intake has now been linked to human kidney cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and human breast cancer. So, I encourage people to keep staying away from French fries and potato chips.

The industry is looking into ways to mitigate our risk by spending tons of R&D money into researching ways to decrease acrylamide levels. Almost as much money, perhaps, as they are spending trying to find better ways to get salt to stick to potato chips. Turns out cubic crystals evidently give the best adhesion.

This, however [photo of a bunch of bananas], remains okay.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on acrylamide and cancer risk from French fries:
Cancer Risk From French Fries

And check out my other videos on carcinogens

For more context, see my blog posts: Breast Cancer and Diet and Soy milk: shake it up.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

39 responses to “Acrylamide in French Fries

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  1. I have followed your facts since meeting you in Ann arbor michigans food co-op years ago. My wife and I eat only organic,are almost vegans. My wife eats free range organic eggs.I don’t,but do eat honey and take bee pollen in my smoothies.We juice,use a BLEND TEC eat raw a lot. question is, do organic “eggs” cause the same problems as commercial eggs? Should she be eating these? She has had a hysterectomy from ovarian cancer ten years ago.My email is Healthandsuccess2003@yahoo.com
    Thank you




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    1. Hello David,
      I don’t know if Dr. Greger has emailed you yet, and I am assuming you would rather hear a response from him over myself, but I believe I can help you.
      Firstly, lets talk about your wife’s egg consumption.
      Eggs have been proven over and over again to be more harmful then we think http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/is-one-egg-a-day-too-much/ We see that one egg is above the upper safety limit of cholesterol for the day http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/egg-cholesterol-in-the-diet/ and we also see that eggs contain very high amounts of arachidonic acid encouraging inflammation http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/chicken-eggs-and-inflammation/ Regardless of whether the egg is organic or not and is free of contaminants, these facts will not change. According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the difference in compositional makeup between organic and conventional animal products is subtle and near insignificant.

      Now regarding honey and bee pollen. Honey is a particularly non nutritious sweetener contrary to popular belief, you can view the video here regarding the healthiest sweetener. http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/the-healthiest-sweetener/ Now for bee pollen, there is actually very little evidence supporting bee pollen. In this study it showed to lower cholesterol in overweight and obese people. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21961335 Nonetheless, a plant based diet can do the same. It might contain some vitamins and minerals but this food is not necessary for good health. Eating a wide range of plant foods satisfies your micro nutrient needs of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
      Now regarding juicing, if you like to drink your fruits/veggies, blending them up is a far better choice over juicing. When you juice a fruit or vegetable you lose 90% of the nutrients in whats left over! Not only that, but it takes 3 oranges to make a cup of orange juice and its still not nutritionally equivalent to 1 single plain orange. Check out Dr. Greger’s video on juices http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/fruit-juice-fail/
      I hope I was of use!




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    2. Do eggs cause ovarian cancer? A meta-analysis of 12 epidemiological studies involving more than 500,000 women (2000 plus with ovarian cancer) concluded that higher intake of eggs was associated with a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer, albeit one they deem “nonsignificant.”

      For a discussion of that study, including an interview with the author, see http://eatandbeatcancer.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/anti-cancer-recipes-can-eggs-cause-ovarian-cancer/




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  2. What about homemade baked potato fries? I find this info sketchy, considering that people have been baking things like potatoes and bread at hot temperatures in ovens for thousands of years.




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    1. Hello becochic!
      Yes, it seems as though people have been baking bread for years but you must know that bread doesn’t create as much acrylamide as do potatoes. Also, with bread, it is only the crust that is affected with acrylamide while the entire potato, when overcooked, will produce acrylamide, and in much greater quantities. White potatoes are not healthy as shown in this video by Dr. Greger regardless of acrylamide http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/is-white-bread-good-for-you/ Regarding what temperatures that acrylamide forms, when you cook something at 248 degrees Fahrenheit or over, acrylamide will form. The safest cooking method is with boiling or steaming which both only reach a maximum of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Pressure cooking will over step the safe cooking level and cooks at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. For more on acrylamide information, check out Dr. McDougal’s newsletter all about this subject. http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2005nl/june/050600acrylamide.htm

      If you can cook bake your potato fries, without oil and using a more nutrient dense potato, under 248 degrees you will be ok. Hope this helps!




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      1. The list of ‘acrylamides in foods’ in this video has boiled potatoes which contain <3 mcg per serving. Yes fries are on there and chips, but there is no mention of baked potatoes WITHOUT oil on this list. The Ore Ida French fries (baked) here on this list have OIL in its ingredients. I would like to see if a baked potato baked in an oven of appr. 375 degrees F WITHOUT ANY OIL, if it would be closer to the less than 3 mcg per serving of the boiled potatoes or if it would be closer to the excessive amounts found in the potato products that did contain oil! It makes a world of difference!!!




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  3. are whole grain brown rice cakes and plain organic puffed rice(whole grain brown rice only ingredient) dangerous to eat?full of acrylamides?




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    1. Plain organic puffed rice is certainly one of the safer foods you could consume. Puffed grain cakes are usually created by putting moist rice under high pressure and heat. This would suggest little in the way of Acrylamides since there is no “browning” occurring. Still worried? Just don’t over indulge and make sure you enjoy a well balanced diet rich in antioxidants. Check out videos on rice here: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/rice/




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    1. Anytime a food is browned, acrylamides are formed. The darker the browning the higher acrylamide content of the food. This seems to be most pronounced in high complex carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, cereals and grains. Although the carcinogenicity of acrylamides remains controversial, the heterocyclic amines in grilled chicken, for example, have been more definitively associated with cancer (see http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/carcinogens-in-roasted-chicken/ for example).




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  4. I always chose chicken because of what I read about other meats, aside from the chemicals. What do you advise people to eat if meat is cancer causing? Like the video said we can’t under cook it and it’s bad to cool it.




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    1. What about going plant based entirely? Its not just the chemicals like arsenic found in chicken (and a host of others)
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/arsenic-in-chicken/

      But chicken and eggs are the number one source of arachadonic acid which is linked with cancer and autoimmune diseases.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/inflammatory-remarks-about-arachidonic-acid/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/chicken-eggs-and-inflammation/

      Chicken and eggs are also the number 1 source of cholesterol which we should strive for a tolerable upper intake of 0.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/trans-fat-saturated-fat-and-cholesterol-tolerable-upper-intake-of-zero/

      Meat in general is attributed to most of the degenerative diseases of today http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/meat-mortality/

      And chicken doesn’t stand a chance nutritionally to even iceberg lettuce!
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/antioxidant-power-of-plant-foods-versus-animal-foods/




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  5. Dr. Greger – I have been trying to find the video on which you stated that eating meat just once a week doubles one’s risk of cancer, but have had no success in locating it.  Could you point me to the link?  Thanks so much.  Really, thanks for all you do.  Your work is phenomenal.




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  6. I have been avidly browsing this website for a few months now, gradually changing my diet and loving most of the changes. When my husband and I go out to eat (we do this once a week) he will stick to his burgers (not converted yet) and now I would get a salad and fries – wonderfully plant based. But, now you are telling me all I can have is the salad!! Aaargh, I know it’s important to my health and all that, but can’t a girl have ANY treats??




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    1. Eating fried foods in general is harmful and does not protect you against heart disease in addition to the acrylamide exposure. Eating out is a difficult task. I would try to find a restaurant that’s in your area that suits your diet more. If i am at a non-vegan friendly place, I will either get a mix of sides that suit my diet or I will ask if the chef can make me some sort of custom meal with certain ingredients.




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  7. How about acrylamide in prunes. My 5-year-old and I eat about 5 prunes a day – we swapped to prunes from Miralax (him) and Metamucil (me) after I watched some of your videos. I’ve started to see thing pop up about high levels of acrylamide in prunes. What have you found about this? How concerned/careful should I be?




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  8. Most days of the year I bake sweet potatoes in the solar oven for my 93-year-old thriving Mom, my 55-year-old thriving self and über thriving 6 year old Brooks, canine. Any acrylamide in sight for us?




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  9. Hello Dr. Greger: Does Acrylamide appear in home made French Fries made with organic potatoes fried with expeller pressed vegetable oil?




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  10. I was wondering if there is a lot of acrylamide in roasted grain and chickory beverages like Teeccino and Yannoh.
    Do these drinks pose a serious health threat based on their supposed acrylamide content?




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    1. From my recent research (i.e. watching Dr. Greger and others’ videos), I believe the answer is the same as for oil in raw food meals – None is best; all oil is bad for you




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  11. Arent you exaggerating a little? I go here from links neurotoxin dont you know that dose make poison? In this case you also should give reference from water because in proper dose also is toxic. “Acrylamide in French Fries”- how much? 6.2 oz. 82 mcg average intake from other sources is 70 mcg so with fries you will eat 152 mcg NOAEL neurotoxicity is 0,5 mg/kg still you claim about neurotoxicity?




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  12. Acrylamide is found in baking potatoes. What is the best way to bake potatoes or make potato wedges with no oil on them, and not get high levels of Acrylamid? Thanks




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