Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fried Foods scare-How justified are the present concerns?

Who does not love fried foods, whether young or old? But many health pundits advocate avoiding fried foods which according to them can spell danger. Though to some extent this is true, eliminating them altogether from the diet is not a choice at all. Such advocacy is not justifiable according to present scientific knowledge available to day. Acrylamide is a chemical artifact generated in foods when they are exposed to high temperature due to reaction between the naturally occurring amino acid Asparagine and reducing sugars like glucose and this has been found to be a health hazard with potential to cause cancer. If one really looks at the toxicity levels injurious to humans, most foods eaten moderately and not regularly cannot be a risk at all. Of course any food eaten without any control can be dangerous and fried foods are no exception to this well accepted rule. According to scientific data Acrylamide contents in some of the commonly eaten foods does not exceed the limit set by health experts and normal healthy consumer may not be at a risk by eating them at moderate levels. Here is a take on this issue which is being being highlighted by many journalists and scientists recently.  

"Yesterday, US Food Safety posted a blog about the How to Reduce Acrylamide in Certain Foods.Today took this one step further and posted an article about what foods to avoid. Cut out, or at least cut back on, fried foods. This is just a good idea, anyway, but it's an especially good idea if acrylamide makes you nervous. "If you want to make a big difference, have things that you boil or steam or eat raw," Fernstrom says.  Don't eat crispy or burnt french fries. The FDA says overcooked, crispy or burnt french fries are the ones most likely to have higher levels of acrylamide. Go for the golden yellow fries, and avoid the brown ones. Also, don't eat burnt toast. Same concept here: The dark brown or black areas on a piece of toast are more likely to contain acrylamide. Toast your bread to a light brown color instead. "The best rule of thumb is just don't cook things to death," Fernstrom says. Potatoes don't belong in the refrigerator. Keeping potatoes in the fridge can increase the amount of acrylamide produced during cooking, the FDA says. Instead, keep them stored in a dark, cool place, like a pantry." 

Foods containing Aspargine and sugars which undergo rigorous cooking can generate Acrylamide and that includes biscuits, bread, coffee, French fries, Potato crisps, home cooked potatoes etc. French fries are reported to contain about 40 ug (microgram) of Acrylamide per kg while potato crisps generate a whopping 65 ug per kg. In contrast home cooked potatoes have 32 ug, coffee 25 ug, biscuits 32 ug and bread 15 ug per kg. but from time to time high values exceeding 1000 ug per kg are also reported. Safety limit for Acrylamide is also a matter of debate though 500 ug per kg body weight is more or less accepted. If this is so why all these scare mongering about Acrylamide? Recent claim by a potato breeder about the development of a "gene silenced" version of potato which generates far less Acrylamide than the tradition varieties appears to be a direct outcome of the undue Acrylamide scare that can benefit only the organized potato using industry.


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