May 21st 2012
Curcumin: Protecting against Acrylamide
. . . another reason to choose raw foods. There are a number of problems with cooked foods; that's why I recommend eating at least 80% of your diet raw. One problem that hasn't gotten much press recently is acrylamide. I thought of it again when I ran across a 2008 study showing that curcumin greatly reduces the toxic effects of acrylamide. In 2002 Swedish researchers set off worldwide alarm bells when they reported that cooking starchy foods at temperatures over 120 degrees C (245 degrees F) -- temperatures reached in baking, roasting, frying and toasting -- creates a compound shown in animal studies to be highly carcinogenic and neurotoxic. That compound is acrylamide. It appears to be formed primarily when sugar reacts with an amino acid called asparagine. The higher the heat, and the longer the heating time, the more is formed. Boiling, steaming and stewing, which use lower temperatures, don't cause this reaction. According to a 2004 report by the FDA, the top 10 acrylamide-containing foods in descending order are french fries, breakfast cereals, potato chips, cookies, brewed coffee, toast, pies, cakes, soft bread, and chili con carne. Apart from food, acrylamide is also found in tobacco smoke, and small quantities are even found in the water supply (it is used in water treatment). It's also been found in dried fruits, especially dried pears and prunes. In the last ten years, epidemiological studies haven't found much of a correlation between acrylamide ingestion and disease, and several researchers have suggested that most diets don't supply enough to be a problem. Although food manufacturers and governments in the US, Canada and Europe have been looking for ways to reduce the acrylamide content in foods, everyone is basically saying they don't know enough at this point to make specific recommendations. In making up your own mind, consider these facts. Acrylamide is a known toxin, classified by the World Health Organization as a "possible carcinogen." Even in small amounts, acrylamide does damage, primarily by creating free radicals. If your antioxidant defense is healthy, these free radicals will be quenched and the potential oxidative damage mitigated. This is why a strong antioxidant like curcumin is so protective against acrylamide. The problem is oxidative assault today comes from a host of environmental and dietary toxins, as well as chronic disease and some normal body functions like metabolizing food. Most people don't have enough antioxidant defenses to cope with such a major assault. This leads to a condition called oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to all chronic disease. While epidemiological studies don't find a direct cause and effect between acrylamide and disease, by adding to oxidative stress it is one more factor in increasing the likelihood of disease. If you love baked potatoes, go ahead and enjoy one on occasion. But our overall challenge is to minimize acrylamide and other factors leading to oxidative stress while maximizing antioxidant support. Because they each operate in a slightly different way and function together synergistically, we need a variety of different antioxidants like vitamins A, C, D and E and minerals zinc and selenium in food and supplements, and antioxidant phytonutrients in fruits, vegetables and herbs. Curcumin would be an excellent addition to your antioxidant support program. It is such a remarkable herb, I take it every day to maintain health and youthfulness. However, not all curcumin is created equal, and that's why I take Beyond Health Curcumin Formula. For more on curcumin, see my website article. Cao J. Curcumin attenuates acrylamide-induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in HepG2 cells by ROS scavenging. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2008;56(24);12059-12063. Tareke E. Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2002; 50(17):4998-5006. DiNovi, M. The updated exposure assessment for acrylamide. US Food and Drug Administration/Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. April 13, 2004.