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Can burnt toast and roasted potatoes cause cancer?

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The Food Standards Agency in the UK have started a campaign to warn people about cancer risks linked to eating burnt toast, over-roasted potatoes and various other starchy foods cooked in high temperatures. The campaign is based off of animal studies during 2002, but the connection is yet to be proved in human studies. Some experts are stating that other lifestyle factors pose much greater cancer risks, such as smoking and obesity. What exactly is the problem with these overcooked starchy foods? Earlier experimental studies identified that a lot of intake of a compound called acrylamide led to an increased risk of cancer.

Acrylamide is the substance that causes bread and potatoes to turn a golden color when fried, baked, toasted or roasted. The compound is formed from simple sugars like glucose, which reacts with an amino acid, known as Asparagine. This happens when these foods are cooked at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius. Asparagine is found naturally in starchy foods. If cooked for a long amount of time, these foods turn from golden to brown and eventually black. As they turn black, they produce higher levels of acrylamide. The more acrylamide that is produced it further increases your cancer risk.

“Our research indicates that the majority of people are not aware that acrylamide exists, or that they might be able to reduce their personal intake,” Steve Wearne said in a statement. The government analyzes and shows current research in food safety, nutrition and food-related disease of importance to public health. Wearne also stated that his agency wants to “highlight the issue so that consumers know how to make the small changes that may reduce their acrylamide consumption whilst still eating plenty of starchy carbohydrates and vegetables as recommended in government healthy eating advice.” The campaign has made many tips to healthy no risk eating such as :

  • Aim for a yellow or golden brown color when frying, roasting or baking food.
  • Follow cooking instructions on food packages to avoid overcooking.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Avoid keeping potatoes in the fridge before cooking them, as this can further increase acrylamide levels.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/23/health/burnt-toast-cancer-risk-roast-potatoes-acrylamide-bn/

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jan/27/how-burnt-toast-became-linked-to-cancer-acrylamide

 

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Can burnt toast and roasted potatoes cause cancer?