(NaturalNews) Can you eat the foods you love occasionally without compromising your health? A new study shows that adding certain compounds to your diet can protect you from the harmful effects of acrylamides found in many of American's favorite foods.
Acrylamides are cancer causing agents created when foods are grilled, fried, baked or roasted. They are a byproduct of cooking starchy foods at high temperatures. Acrylamides are found in the highest levels in foods that become browned in the cooking process such as french fries, potato chips, and grilled meats and vegetables that have grill marks on them. Toasted bread and cereals, and baked foods such as sweet potatoes and browned meats also contain substantial amounts, as does dried fruit.
The danger of acrylamides was first revealed in 2002, when researchers found that women who consumed 40 micrograms or more of acrylamides each day had twice the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer risk of women who ate substantially smaller amounts. This would be the amount of acrylamides contained in a small portion of potatoe chips. The FDA has been slow to acknowledge the threat of acrylamides. Food manufacturers have not been required to publish data on the levels of acrylamides in their products.
Research reveals the way for consumers to protect themselves
As published in the July 15, 2008 edition of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, researchers found that three dietary constituents, tea polyphenols, resveratrol, and diallyl trisulfide, inhibit damage to DNA from acrylamides at levels typically found in human exposure. Results of analysis of the compounds with accelerator mass spectrometry demonstrated that all three significantly inhibited the formation of acrylamide damage to liver DNA, whereas tea polyphenols and diallyl trisulfide reduced DNA damage to protamines and hemoglobin as well.
Further biochemical studies showed that acrylamides could significantly inactivate creatine kinase and glutathione S-transferase and deplete glutathione. When the inhibitors were treated with acrylamide, all of them could effectively recover the activities of creatine kinase. In addition, tea polyphenols and diallyl trisulfide could increase glutathione S-transferase at a remarkably high level. Creatine kinase is an enzyme essential in biochemical reactions and energy generation. Glutathione S-transferase is a family of enzymes that play key roles in the detoxification of substances such as carcinogens, drugs, and byproducts of oxidative stress.
Acrylamides are formed when carbohydrate containing foods are baked, fried or roasted. They have been shown to cause cancer in animals exposed to high doses, as well as nerve damage. Acrylamides are not added to foods but occur naturally in the cooking process. Because of this, information on them is not required on food labels.
Any starchy food cooked at high temperatures will contain acrylamides. Potatoes that are fried may be the worst offenders, with potato chips fried to a golden brown containing the highest levels. Boiled or mashed potatoes will contain acrylamides as will cooked sweet potatoes. It can also be found in toasted or roasted cereal grains and bread products -- again with the highest levels contained in those baked to a golden brown, and corn roasted on a grill, or popped in oil. Pretzels are promoted as healthy snacks, but that golden brown color is your tip that they contain high levels of acrylamides. Coffee creates acrylamides during its roasting.
Acrylamides were discovered by Swedish scientists in 2002, and made headlines across America when they were first reported. Since then, there has been little interest by the FDA to keep people abreast of the dangers of eating acrylamide containing foods. The method by which acrylamides form in food remains unknown.
What we do know from this study is that by taking steps to protect ourselves from acrylamides, we don't have to be boorish sticks when we go out with our friends. We can eat foods containing acrylamides without suffering their effects if we also make sure we are fortified with tea polyphenols, resveratrol and diallyl trisulfide.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the anti-cancer properties of tea polyphenols, with recent studies adding gastric, esophageal and skin cancers to the list of those inhibited by polyphenols from tea consumed in high amounts. Another study showed ovarian cancer risk reduced by 46 percent in women drinking 2 cups of tea daily. Researchers have found tea polyphenols to lower cholesterol levels, prevent blood clots, and help prevent heart disease. All types of tea contain polyphenols, with green and white tea having the highest levels due to their minimal processing.
Resveratrol is turning out to be so good for us that red wine may end up on the superfood list. It is found in the skin of red or purple grapes, and in peanut products that contain the skins, such as Spanish peanuts. Resveratrol has also been shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. A glass of tea or red wine during a meal containing foods that have produced acrylamides will offer you protection.
Diallyl trisulfide is a compound found in garlic that has been roasted, smashed or otherwise processed. Shown particularly effective in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer, this compound is also a potent immune system booster.
All three of these compounds are extremely effective antioxidants.
If you plan to be eating foods that contain acrylamides, you can protect yourself by having supplements of theses compounds on hand. Each offers an array of other health benefits.
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.