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A Matter Of Degrees: Advancing Our Understanding of Acrylamide

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
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  • Chemistry


News | Focus DEGREES ADVANCING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF ACRYLAMIDE A OFMATTER Focus | A Matter of Degrees Environmental Health Perspectives • volume 118 | number 4 | April 2010 A 161 Until about a decade ago, acrylamide was known only as a constituent of cigarette smoke and of products such as plastics and water treatment chemicals. But in 2002 Swed- ish scientists were surprised to find this human neuro- toxicant and probable carcin- ogen in many heat-processed foods, especially starchy ones such as potato chips, crackers, and french fries. A f lurry of research since then has yielded general advice about reduc- ing formation of acrylamide and other heat-generated food toxicants in home cooking and a few recommendations for healthier eating. Now, in 2010, new acrylamide studies are giving a clearer picture of the extent of exposure to the chemical in the United States. These studies also raise addi- tional questions about whether differences in metabolism make exposure more danger- ous in certain populations, including children and people who are obese. ACRYLAMIDE O p p o si te p ag e: © K ev in S u m m er s. A b o ve r ig h t: B en M ill s Focus | A Matter of Degrees A 162 volume 118 | number 4 | April 2010 • Environmental Health Perspectives Revisiting Acrylamide Acrylamide is one of the hundreds of chem- icals known as Maillard reaction products (MRPs), which form when foods are heat- ed at high temperatures. In the Maillard reaction—the chemical process that causes food to brown as it cooks—sugars includ- ing glucose, fructose, and lactose react with free amino acids in foods. It’s often MRPs that give food its appetizing colors, smells, and flavors. Other well-known heat-generated food toxicants include nitrosamines, carcino- gens that form in meats and cheeses pre- served with nitrites and are increased by frying; heterocyclic amines, carcinogens that form in meat th

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