Researchers Study New Method for Fried Potatoes to Reduce Cancer Causing Agent

acrylamide, fried foods, cancer
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Starchy fried foods are not only bad for your waistline, but they may also contain at least some measure of a cancer-causing ingredient known as acrylamide. Researchers with the University of Reading in the UK are studying the process of frying potatoes so they can better understand how acrylamide is formed and how to reduce it in our favorite comfort foods.

Acrylamide is formed when high-carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures. When heated above 248 degrees Fahrenheit, sugars and asparagines (an amino acid) combine to form the possibly cancer-causing ingredient. Scientists believe that about 40% of the foods we eat contain at least some measure of the chemical.

The Swedish Food Administration has linked acrylamide to cancer in animals, but the impact of the chemical on human health is still uncertain. Several following studies of dietary acrylamide intake have had conflicting or inconclusive results.

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Donald S. Mottram and colleagues are studying the process from start to finish for the frozen, par-fried potato strips that are distributed to food outlets for making fries. They have been able to determine particular points during preparation and cooking where acrylamide formation is occurring, which will ultimately help determine how to minimize levels in practice without compromising taste, color, or texture.

Making French fries for commercial food outlets is a multi-stage process that includes potato selection and sorting, cutting, blanching, treatment in a glucose solution, drying, frying and freezing. After they are delivered to the restaurant, the fries are then prepared for consumption by frying them in oil.

The team has found that the most important points in the process that ultimately contribute to acrylamide formation are the initial blanching, sugar (glucose) augmentation, and par-frying. Figuring out methods to minimize sugar formation during these processes will help reduce the levels of the chemical.

Mottram reminds us, however, that even if they are successful in reducing acrylamide in commercially-available French fries, achieving zero amounts of the chemical is nearly impossible. But you can reduce your personal intake of acrylamide by following a diet that avoids fast foods, processed foods, and foods fried at high temperatures.

Journal Reference:
Jane K. Parker, Dimitrios P. Balagiannis, Jeremy Higley, Gordon Smith, Bronislaw L. Wedzicha, Donald S. Mottram.Kinetic Model for the Formation of Acrylamide during the Finish-Frying of Commercial French Fries. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2012; 60 (36): 9321 DOI: 10.1021/jf302415n

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