Fried potatoes popularly known as french fries or finger chips are a common snack served with fast food at most of the restaurants worldwide. It commonly appears on the menus of European and Asian diners.
With respect to its delicious taste and increasingly growing consumption, fried potatoes have been subjected to a wide range of investigations and scientist have discovered some potential risks associated with them.
According to a new research, fried potatoes and other foods cooked at high temperature can be a potential cause of cancer. They are reported to increase the likelihood of cancer and hence been issued with a public warning by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the U.K.
The study reveals that the foods cooked at high temperatures i.e. over 120 degrees Celsius are a major constituent of acrylamide. This chemical compound is revealed to be potent enough to trigger the growth of cancer cells. The potentially carcinogenic nature of acrylamide in food was first highlighted by a Swedish study in 2002. However, the carcinogenic effects of acrylamide on HUMANS are not yet experimentally proven, they are just anticipated by the scientists because acrylamide is several times proven to be a cause of cancer in animals.
Among all the fried foods, fried potatoes have been stated to contain the highest amounts of acrylamide. In addition, acrylamide can also be found in other foods, such as packed crackers, cookies, dry cereals, toasted nuts, bread crusts, peanut butter, canned black olives, prune juice, and roasted cocoa beans. Acrylamide starts to appear in certain carbohydrates, proteins, and starchy foods that are exposed to high or prolonged heat during processing or cooking. It occurs when simple sugars, such as glucose, exposed to intense heat, react with the amino acid asparagine.
Cancer isn’t the only risk associated with fried potatoes. Studies conducted on mice have also revealed that exposure to high levels of acrylamide can lead to neurological damage. It can also increase the risk of early death. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that consuming fried potatoes two or more times in a week could increase the risk of premature death, by two times, among the consumers.
The research work for the study was carried out in Italy. The experts analyzed the data of 4,440 adults who participated in the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) group study. The participants ranged between 45 and 79 years at the beginning of the study. They were followed for analysis for about eight years. During the follow-up, around 236 participants ended up dying.
They were asked to accomplish a food frequency questionnaire as part of the OAI study. This data was used by the researchers of this study in order to measure the participants’ total potato intake per week along with the weekly consumption of fried and unfried potatoes.
The researchers revealed that consumption of two to three portions of fried potatoes like french fries, potato chips, or hash browns every week doubled the risk of early death and more than three portions were claimed to increase the risk further. On contrary, unfried potatoes were declared safe and were not found to be associated with early death in any way.
All of the harms of fried potatoes were attributed to Acrylamide. FSA also suggested that people should reduce their consumption of acrylamide by fearing the hazardous consequences it poses. Some simple ways to reduce people’s consumption of acrylamide are,
- Toast, roast, bake and fry the starchy foods especially potatoes until they turn golden yellow or even light toned.
- First of all, raw potatoes should not be stored for long periods because it augments the production of acrylamide. If to be stored necessarily, people should opt for dark, cool places with temperatures over 6 degrees Celsius.
- The cooking instructions on the packs of the food products must be followed properly in order to ensure that foods are not exposed to extreme temperatures for longer times.
- Raw potatoes should not be kept in the fridge because keeping potatoes in the fridge can increase overall levels of acrylamide.
- Cutting potatoes into larger wedges decreases their surface area, thus reducing the level of acrylamide that can form. So potatoes must be cut into larger wedges.
- Chunky chips should be preferred over fries and people should adhere to a varied, balanced diet for overcoming the overall risks of such diseases.