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Acrylamide: An Emerging Health Trap in Baked Goods

HK BioTek Intern


Baked goods - form an integral part in our everyday diet. It has been infamous for contributing to a worldwide obesity epidemic. As more people have begun to explore healthier alternatives, the obesity-causing trap in baked goods can be largely gotten rid of. However, if you are willing to take your health up a notch, you should also be alerted by the presence of acrylamide.


Acrylamide is a by-product of the Maillard reaction - the same reaction that generates volatile chemical compounds underlying the enticing colours, aromas and flavours in baked goods. The Maillard reaction occurs once the oven temperature reaches above 120°C, in which water, reducing sugars (like glucose and fructose) and the amino acid asparagine in the dough or batter react with each other to form the above 2 products. Since baking temperatures usually exceed 120°C, it is likely that every baked goods may contain acrylamide.


As with any other food substance, consuming acrylamide per se is not problematic but rather consuming large amounts of it. An increased acrylamide intake has been shown to be associated with increased cancer risks in animal models, because acrylamide in the body is converted to glycidamide - a compound that damages DNA and drives cancer development.


Unfortunately, there is yet conclusive evidence on acrylamide’s carcinogenic effect in humans, that’s why World Health Organisation lists acrylamide as a group 2A carcinogen.


Despite this, it’s still sensible to limit our exposure to acrylamide just in case. Here are some tips in which you can reduce the potential health risks posed:


  1. Make your own baked goods - this wayyou can control the quality of the finished product

  2. Adjust the baking time - because acrylamide formation increases with baking time and oven temperature; in terms of how much time should be cut or added, it depends on the colour of the baked goods (see 3rd point)

  3. Keep an eye on the colour - a golden yellow colour is just right Darker colours mean more acrylamide is present in the baked goods

  4. Get inspired by no-bake recipes - but some no-bake recipes involve acrylamide-generating and high-temperature cooking methods such as caramelization. Therefore, recipes that don’t require cooking or involves low-temperature cooking are preferred for minimising acrylamide

  5. If you’re not preparing your own batter, follow the instructions - the manufacturers come up with a particular baking time and temperature for a reason

  6. Replenish yourself with antioxidants regularly, whether you’ve consumed self-made baked goods or commercial ones - acrylamide stimulates the production of free radicals - molecules that extensively damage our body’s cells and are implied in cancer development; but antioxidants primarily found in fruits and vegetables are free radical scavengers and are somehow anti-cancer agents

References:

  1. https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/acrylamide

  2. https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/1810/PDF

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164905/

  4. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/acrylamide-fact-sheet#r10

  5. https://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/opinions_layman/en/electromagnetic-fields/glossary/ghi/iarc-classification.htm

  6. https://www.errenskitchen.com/cooking-conversions/oven-temperature-conversions/

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444912/

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