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Dried fruit

Dried Fruit Warning: Prunes and Pears Found to Contain High Levels of Acrylamide Chemicals

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: dried fruit, acrylamide, prunes

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(NewsTarget) A possibly carcinogenic chemical found in starchy foods cooked at high heat is also found in high quantities in dried fruit, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and presented at a symposium on the chemical that took place in Boston.

Acrylamide is a toxic chemical that was first uncovered as a human health concern in 2002, when a group of Swedish scientists discovered that it forms in a reaction between amino acids and sugar when starchy foods, such as grains or potatoes, are baked, fried or microwaved. Previously, the substance had only been known as an industrial chemical and an ingredient in tobacco smoke. Acrylamide is known to be carcinogenic in mice and rats, and is a suspected carcinogen among humans.

In the Swiss study, scientists found that acrylamide formed in dried fruit, particularly plums (prunes) and pears, even under relatively mild drying conditions. This was the first time acrylamide formation in food had been observed at temperatures significantly below the boiling point of water.

Among other findings presented at the symposium were a link between dietary fat and acrylamide formation, suggesting that up to half the acrylamide in roasted almonds may have formed from fat and not starch. However, the researchers in this study said that they had no evidence that lowering fat content reduces acrylamide formation.

Other researchers presented evidence that acrylamide may damage brain cells and increase the risk of Alzheimer's, while another group found no link between the chemical and women's breast cancer.

The symposium, organized by the American Chemical Society, is part of a global effort to uncover more data about the chemical and its health effects. Since 2002, more than 200 studies have been launched to learn more about acrylamide, with support from various national governments and international bodies.

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