Danny Parker is back! This week, our myeloma nutritional guru focuses on the dangers of acrylamides in our food:
Acrylamide and Myeloma
You haven’t heard from me in a while, and its because of what I have to write about today. I was hoping it would go away. I was hoping that as I dug deeper, it would disappear. Alas, that’s not the case.
Acrylamide. Just what is that?
If you are a myeloma patient, then it might be useful to find out. Why? Because the evidence is accumulating that this chemical substance, found in fried foods, baked goods and roasted coffee (yes, coffee), has been linked statistically with the likelihood of developing multiple myeloma. That might be important for patients in remission or a low level of disease where exposure high levels of acrylamide might trigger unwelcome changes.
The news that acrylamide could be potentially dangerous is not a new finding. In 2002, Swedish researchers found that acrylamide, produced cancer in laboratory animals. They also found that these substances were produced from a variety of carbohydrate rich foods are exposed to high heat. Chemically, acrylamide forms from sugars and the amino acid asparagine when the foods containing them are fried, roasted or baked. It also occurs naturally in some foods we aren’t likely to be eating a lot of: black olives and prunes.
But baked goods and coffee are other matters. Those have been big on my list. Alas…
What is new news is that a major study has shown that the link is particularly strong with the probability of people to develop multiple myeloma. The statistical evidence is pretty compelling. The120,852 men and women followed in a Dutch study by Bongers et al. (2012) showed a 38% – 185% increase in the incidence of myeloma in men from a diet rich in acrylamide. The finding of a 98% average increased risk was statistically significant at the 95% level. That’s major.
And its not just myeloma. Although severals studies have been inconclusive, one which monitored blood acrylamide levels found evidence of increased risk for women of certain types of breast cancer.
In 2008, the FDA began advising American consumers on the issue. While they did not recommend dietary changes, they did provide information to consumers seeking to limit their exposure to acrylamide:
To say this news was controversial is to paint it lightly. The problem is that acrylamide is found in foods that are nearly ubiquitous in the American diet. French fries, chips, baked goods. Heck, graham crackers generally have high levels.
Thus, the FDA recommendation was met with disdain. What are they going to leave for us to eat?
Still, the finding that exposure to acrylamide is important to the risk of developing myeloma seems increasingly difficult to ignore. Earlier this summer, one of the pioneers in myeloma research, Dr. Brian Durie, wrote about the importance of the Dutch study.
He got a lot of flak too.
Still, it seems prudent to address the largest sources of the potential carcinogen: French fries, potato chips, breakfast cereals, cookies, toast, and coffee.
While the FDA does not recommend eliminating such foods from our diet, they’ve come up with suggestions for a few of these items to help reduce the concentrations, particularly for potatoes and bread. (It is worth mentioning that the FDA stance on this issue is evolving in the direction of reducing levels in the American diet).
For french fries and potato chips, the answer is simple: don’t eat them. Lots of empty calories and fat and acyrlamides to boot. Just say no. Even the FDA seems to agree with that.
For potatoes, boiling or heating them in the microwave produces no acrylamide. However, frying leads to very high acrylamide levels. Roasting is not so bad and baking is better. Strangely, storing potatoes in the refrigerator can increase formation of acrylamide during cooking, so its useful to store the potatoes at room temperature.
For bread, if you toast it, toast to a light brown color. FDA has a number of tips.
However, as you will see from the FDA charts below, cookies, cakes and baked goods have high acrylamide levels too. Alas cocoa and chocolate is also on the list.
EDITORS NOTE: The FDA data and charts are so extensive, I couldn’t reproduce them here. Click-on the link above and you will find many of your favorite foods, listed by brand.
I think that’s more than enough information to “digest” for today. Tune-in for part two of what I like to call, “Proof that most every food that you love isn’t good for you!” tomorrow.
It really isn’t that bad! My take on all of this is that you should avoid processed foods that contain a lot of sugar, are fried and/or are cooked so much that they become crispy and dark.
OK–maybe it is that bad! Head to the kitchen, grab a handful of radishes and an apple and tune-in tomorrow morning for part two.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat