Shock news from the world of dietary research: raw-food fanatics may not be so deranged after all.
Research has emerged showing a direct link between a chemical called acrylamide and womb and ovarian cancer in women. Acrylamide is produced when we roast, fry or bake our food.If you are still reeling from last month’s news that bacon and sausages cause cancer, then the idea that the future holds only raw beansprouts may seem a bit much. However, it appears that the more crispily we cook food – particularly starchy foods, such as potatoes – the more acrylamide is produced. The University of Maastricht study found that women who consumed 40 micrograms of acrylamide a day (the same as in a 32g packet of crisps) had double the risk of cancer than women who ate the least.
The evidence is so persuasive that the EU is now advising people to avoid overcooking when baking, frying or toasting carbohydrate-rich foods. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests casting an aesthetic eye over your dinner plate: keep your chips to a gentle golden yellow, and your toast to the lightest shade acceptable.
Acrylamide, explains a FSA spokesman, is a chemical produced naturally when a wide variety of foods are cooked. Most breakfast cereals contain it. Cooked meat contains low levels, too. This latest study is not the first to show a link with cancer. However, the FSA admits that, “It is not possible to have a healthy balanced diet that avoids acrylamide.” Virtually all women eat acrylamide, probably daily. Not all of us get endometrial or ovarian cancer.
The sensible point lurking deep in the headlines is that we should all cut down on chips, crisps, fast foods and processed foods, which contain the highest levels of acrylamide. In short, eat everything in moderation and increase your fruit and vegetable intake to offset the (unavoidable) baddies.