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Eating Fried Potatoes Linked to Higher Risk of Death, Study Says

How your spuds are cooked is key to your health. People who eat fried potatoes two or more times a week double their risk of an early death compared to those who avoid them, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.

Eating potatoes that have not been fried was not linked to a similar early mortality risk, the researchers noted.

“Fried potatoes consumption is increasing worldwide,” warned Dr. Nicola Veronese, lead author of the study and a scientist at the National Research Council in Padova, Italy.

In 2014, Americans consumed 112.1 pounds of potatoes per person, according to the National Potato Council. Of that total, 33.5 pounds were fresh potatoes, the remaining 78.5 pounds were processed. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the majority of processed potatoes North Americans eat are French fries.

Trans fats in fried potatoes

Veronese and his colleagues have been tracking 4,440 people aged 45 to 79 over a period of eight years to study osteoarthritis. This research team decided to momentarily set aside the main issue of osteoarthritis and look at participants’ consumption of potatoes.

Even though most of us may have assumed that fried potatoes could be unhealthy for us, there is “very limited” scientific data on this issue, Veronese explained in an email.

So the researchers divided study participants into subgroups based on how frequently they ate potatoes each week. Over the eight years, a total of 236 of the participants died. Analyzing the data for each group, Veronese and his team found that those who ate fried potatoes two to three times each week doubled their chance of dying early compared to those who ate no fried potatoes.

French fries, potato chips, hash browns – and any other preparation requiring a fryer – are all included under the umbrella of “fried potatoes,” Veronese explained.

Age or sex of participants did not influence the result, but the data showed men were more likely than women and younger participants were more likely than older participants to enjoy the fried food.

The study is observational, meaning the researchers simply tracked the behavior of a group of people and found an association between one behavior – eating fried potatoes – and another factor – early death. Because it is an observational study, Veronese and his co-authors note it cannot be said that eating fried potatoes directly causes an early mortality – it would require more research to draw such a firm conclusion.

“Even if it is an observational study, we believe that the cooking oil, rich in trans-fat, is an important factor in explaining mortality in those eating more potatoes,” said Veronese. Trans fat has been shown to raise the “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol in the blood, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

 

Yet, he also added that “other important factors,” including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and use of high quantities of salt might also play a role in the early death of those eating two or more portions of fried potatoes each week.

National Potato Council CEO John Keeling said the “study isn’t relevant to the general population” since the data was collected for an osteoarthritis study and includes only patients with arthritis. “Potatoes are inherently a very healthy vegetable,” said Keeling in an email. He said a medium-sized potato is 110 calories, has no fat, no sodium, no cholesterol, and provides nearly a third of the daily vitamin C requirement with more potassium than a banana.

“How the potato is prepared will impact the calorie, fat and sodium content,” said Keeling, however the basic nutrients remain “no matter how it is prepared.”

Based on the data in the study, Keeling said, “it is very much a stretch to brand fried potatoes, or any other form of potato, as unhealthy.”

Susanna Larsson, an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, noted that the new study provides “no evidence” that potato consumption in and of itself may increase the risk of an early death. Larsson was not involved in the new study. Instead, it may be the “other factors” suggested by Veronese himself.

“Fried potato consumption may be an indicator of a less healthy (Western) dietary pattern which is associated with increased mortality,” said Larsson, who also conducted a study of potato consumption. Her study did not find an increased risk of cardiovascular disease linked to eating potatoes.

Understanding acrylamide

The potential danger when eating fried starchy foods, such as French fries, is acrylamide, said Stephanie Schiff, a registered dietitian at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York. Schiff was not involved in the study.

Acrylamide is “a chemical produced when starchy foods such as potatoes are fried, roasted or baked at a high temperature,” explained Schiff in an email. The browning process is actually a reaction that produces this chemical one shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and considered toxic to humans, said Schiff. Acrylamide is also a potential cause of cancer, she said.

“You can reduce your intake of acrylamide by boiling or steaming starchy foods, rather than frying them,” said Schiff. “If you do fry foods, do it quickly.”

She also suggested you “go lighter” since “the darker the food, the more acrylamide it may contain.”

Finally, Schiff said that potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator because this could lead to producing more acrylamide when the potatoes are later cooked.

“Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables for a healthier alternative,” said Schiff.

Veronese said he hopes his new study will suggest to everyone that consuming fried potatoes “could be an important risk factor for mortality. Thus, their consumption should be strongly limited.”

By Susan Scutti, CNN    Thu June 15, 2017
source: CNN
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What is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a chemical used mainly in certain industrial processes, such as in making paper, dyes, and plastics, and in treating drinking water and wastewater. There are small amounts in some consumer products, such as caulk, food packaging, and some adhesives. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.

Acrylamide can also form in some starchy foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment.

How are people exposed to acrylamide?

In certain foods

Acrylamide has probably always been in some foods, but this wasn’t known until Swedish scientists first found it in certain foods in 2002.

Acrylamide doesn’t appear to be in raw foods themselves. It’s formed when certain starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures (above about 250° F). Cooking at high temperatures causes a chemical reaction between certain sugars and an amino acid (asparagine) in the food, which forms acrylamide. Cooking methods such as frying, baking, broiling, or roasting are more likely to create acrylamide, while boiling, steaming, and microwaving appear less likely to do so. Longer cooking times and cooking at higher temperatures can increase the amount of acrylamide in foods further.

Acrylamide is found mainly in plant foods, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee. Foods such as French fries and potato chips seem to have the highest levels of acrylamide, but it’s also found in breads and other grain products. Acrylamide does not form (or forms at lower levels) in dairy, meat, and fish products.

In cigarette smoke

Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke. This is probably one of the major ways smokers are exposed.

On the job

People who work in certain industries (particularly in the paper and pulp, construction, foundry, oil drilling, textiles, cosmetics, food processing, plastics, mining, and agricultural industries) may be exposed to acrylamide in the workplace, mainly through skin contact or by breathing it in. Regulations limit exposure in these settings.

Does acrylamide increase the risk of cancer?

Researchers use 2 main types of studies to try to figure out if a substance causes cancer.

  • Lab studies: In these studies, animals are exposed to a substance (often in very large doses) to see if it causes tumors or other health problems. Researchers might also expose normal cells in a lab dish to the substance to see if it causes the types of changes that are seen in cancer cells. It’s not always clear if the results from these types of studies will apply to humans, but lab studies are a good way to find out if a substance might possibly cause cancer.
  • Studies in people: This type of study looks at cancer rates in different groups of people. It might compare the cancer rate in a group exposed to a substance to the cancer rate in a group not exposed to it, or compare it to the cancer rate in the general population. But sometimes it can be hard to know what the results of these studies mean, because many other factors might affect the results.

In most cases neither type of study provides enough evidence on its own, so researchers usually look at both lab-based and human studies when trying to figure out if something causes cancer.

Based on the studies done so far, it’s not yet clear if acrylamide affects cancer risk in people.

Studies in the lab

Acrylamide has been found to increase the risk of several types of cancer when given to lab animals (rats and mice) in their drinking water. The doses of acrylamide given in these studies have been as much as 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the levels people might be exposed to in foods. It’s not clear if these results would apply to people as well, but in general it makes sense to limit human exposure to substances that cause cancer in animals.

Studies in people

Since acrylamide was first found in certain foods in 2002, dozens of studies have looked at whether people who eat more of these foods might be at higher risk for certain cancers.

Most of the studies done so far have not found an increased risk of cancer in humans. For some types of cancer, such as kidney, endometrial, and ovarian cancer, the results have been mixed, but there are currently no cancer types for which there is clearly an increased risk related to acrylamide intake.

The studies that have been done so far have had some important limits. For example, many of the studies relied on food questionnaires that people filled out every couple of years. These questionnaires might not have accounted for all dietary sources of acrylamide. In addition, people might not accurately remember what they have eaten when asked in personal interviews or through questionnaires.

While the evidence from human studies so far is somewhat reassuring, more studies are needed to determine if acrylamide raises cancer risk in people. The American Cancer Society supports the call by federal and international agencies for continued evaluation of how acrylamide is formed, its health risks, and how its presence in food can be reduced or removed.

acrylamide

What expert agencies say

Several national and international agencies study substances in the environment to determine if they can cause cancer. (A substance that causes cancer or helps cancer grow is called a carcinogen.) The American Cancer Society looks to these organizations to evaluate the risks based on evidence from laboratory, animal, and human research studies.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Its major goal is to identify causes of cancer.

IARC classifies acrylamide as a “probable human carcinogen” based on data showing it can increase the risk of some types of cancer in lab animals. The evidence in humans was considered to be “inadequate” at the time of the last IARC review of the subject (1994), and at that time acrylamide was not known to be found in foods.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is formed from parts of several different US government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In its most recent Report on Carcinogens (2014), the NTP has classified acrylamide as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” based on the studies in lab animals.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), an electronic database that contains information on human health effects from exposure to various substances in the environment. The EPA classifies acrylamide as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on studies in lab animals.

(For more information on the classification systems used by these agencies, see Known and Probable Human Carcinogens.)

It’s important to note that the determinations above are based mainly on studies in lab animals, and not on studies of people’s exposure to acrylamide from foods. Since the discovery of acrylamide in foods, the American Cancer Society, the FDA, and many other organizations have recognized the need for further research on this topic. Ongoing studies will continue to provide new information on whether acrylamide levels in foods are linked to increased cancer risk.

Are acrylamide levels regulated?

In the United States, the FDA regulates the amount of residual acrylamide in a variety of materials that come in contact with food, but there are currently no regulations on the presence of acrylamide in food itself. In 2016, the FDA issued guidance to help the food industry reduce the amount of acrylamide in certain foods, but these are recommendations, not regulations.

The EPA regulates acrylamide in drinking water. The EPA has set an acceptable level of acrylamide exposure, which is low enough to account for any uncertainty in the data relating acrylamide to cancer and other health effects.

In the workplace, exposure to acrylamide is regulated by the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Can I lower my exposure to acrylamide?

For most people, the major potential sources of acrylamide exposure are in certain foods and in cigarette smoke. It’s not yet clear if the levels of acrylamide in foods raise cancer risk, but for people who are concerned, there are some things you can do to lower your exposure.

Certain foods are more likely to contain acrylamide than others. These include potato products (especially French fries and potato chips), coffee, and foods made from grains (such as breakfast cereals, cookies, and toast). These foods are often part of a regular diet. But if you want to lower your acrylamide intake, reducing your intake of these foods is one way to do so.

The FDA’s advice on acrylamide is to adopt a healthy eating plan, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

This type of diet is likely to have health benefits beyond lowering acrylamide levels.

Acrylamide has been detected in both home-cooked and in packaged or processed foods. Acrylamide levels in foods can vary widely depending on the manufacturer, the cooking time, and the method and temperature of the cooking process. Since acrylamide is formed from natural chemicals in food during cooking, acrylamide levels in cooked organic foods are likely to be similar to levels in cooked non-organic foods.

When cooking at home, some methods may lower the acrylamide levels produced in certain foods.

For potatoes, frying causes the highest acrylamide formation. Roasting potato pieces causes less acrylamide formation, followed by baking whole potatoes. Boiling potatoes and microwaving whole potatoes with skin on does not create acrylamide.

Soaking raw potato slices in water for 15 to 30 minutes before frying or roasting helps reduce acrylamide formation during cooking. (Soaked potatoes should be drained and blotted dry before cooking to prevent splattering or fires.)

Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can result in increased acrylamide during cooking. Therefore, store potatoes outside the refrigerator, preferably in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry, to prevent sprouting.

Generally, acrylamide levels rise when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures. Cooking cut potato products, such as frozen French fries or potato slices, to a golden yellow color rather than a brown color helps reduce acrylamide formation. Brown areas tend to have more acrylamide.

Toasting bread to a light brown color, rather than a dark brown color, lowers the amount of acrylamide. Very brown areas contain the most acrylamide.

Acrylamide forms in coffee when coffee beans are roasted, not when coffee is brewed at home or in a restaurant. So far, scientists have not found good ways to reduce acrylamide formation in coffee.

Not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke are other ways to potentially reduce your exposure to acrylamide, as well as to many other potentially harmful chemicals.