A very crispy Milanese. A toast too golden. The meat "passed knit", or as it is called, "sole of slipper". Many people prefer foods to be toasted because they find them tastier. However, some precautions must be taken, since among the compounds that are generated to give it that property is acrylamide, a carcinogenic chemical.
What acrylamide is and where is it found
This is explained to Clarín by Mara Galmarini, a graduate in Food Technology, doctor in Bromatology (UBA), and adjunct researcher at Conicet.
"When proteins (such as cheese, milk, meat) are at high temperatures with sugars (it does not need to be table sugar, it can be the lactose of milk or cheese itself) there are a series of reactions called Maillard reactions," he says.
Acrylamide occurs as a result of chemical reactions between certain sugars such as glucose and certain amino acids. Photo Shutterstock.
The result? "Browning and generation of aromatic and flavor substances". That is, the toasted or burnt that we like so much, such as the gratin of the cheese or the crispy pizza dough.
However, Galmarini clarifies: "It's not that Maillard equals one compound, but that it results in thousands of compounds. And many of those are what make baking and fried delicious. If it were not for these reactions, we would not like everything breaded, for example. Among those thousands of compounds, there is also acrylamide."
Regarding coffee, it is better to buy roasted than roasted. Photo Shutterstock.
The graduate in Industrial Food Technology Roxana Furman indicates that it is formed "in plant foods, especially rich in starch, from chemical reactions between certain sugars such as glucose and certain amino acids such as asparagine, during cooking at temperatures greater than 120 degrees".
"It is also found in a wide range of food products such as bread, potatoes, cookies, breakfast cereals, bakery products and coffee," says the expert, who together with Claudia Degrossi are the creators of the Instagram account @cazabacterias.
Acrylamide and its relationship to cancer
Now, how does acrylamide relate to cancer? What are the health risks?
"It is associated with carcinogenic, genotoxic, neurotoxic, immunological and reproductive health effects in animal models, that is, experimental. The results we have in animals allow us to infer that in humans it is the same. But, as with many other carcinogens, it is difficult to get the direct test, the human test," Galmarini said.
"There are no studies that show a proportion of what we eat in relation to absorbed, accumulated acrylamide and its effect. For now we know that it exists, how it is generated and that in high doses it can hurt us, "he admits.
They advise having a varied diet, and not to stop including stews, soups and boiled and steamed foods. Photo Shutterstock.
Roxana Furman assures that its presence in food was detected by chance in 2002 and, from there, the risk of exposure in humans by this route began to be evaluated. Several studies analyze its presence in foods such as potato chips.
"Today the international gaze aims to reduce exposure to this danger since it has been shown to increase the risk of cancer in animals, although in humans the evidence is uncertain. That is, we must in the long term consume foods with little acrylamide to reduce the risk to negligible levels, "he says.
As with all the compounds we ingest, boys are more exposed by the relationship with body weight. "Compounds that have a maximum dose are expressed in mg/kg body weight. So a 40-kilo child can ingest half as much as an 80-kilo adult," says Galmarini.
How to recognize the presence of acrylamide
Galmarini acknowledges that "there are no maximum toxicological limits of acrylamide that can be present in different types of food to make them safe for the population. Because it's difficult to determine in isolation, so for now we have only one traffic light."
Even so, and even taking the traffic light as a reference, it is not clearat what point of cooking or roasting it is present. Therefore, common sense dictates that you should roast as little as possible.
"Recommendations are given, but nothing is very decisive: the difference between green and yellow is very subtle. The idea is to avoid the very burned. And above all do not eat the breadcrumbs that are stuck in the dish, or scrape the cooking bottom a lot. Another idea would be to cook over low heat, a matter of the heat reaching the center without burning outside, "advises Galmarini.
In short, "the goal is to try to reduce consumption, include boiled foods, such as stews, casseroles, stews and, as recommended in food in general, have a varied diet," he says.
For his part, Furman advises to be attentive tothe browningthat reaches the food we cook, taking into account that the more toasted, the greater acrylamide. "In the case of potatoes, for example, we must choose them barely golden. Acrylamide does not form if we boil or steam them, but it does form in the oven or fried," he said.
Some prevention guidelines:
- Store potatoes at a temperature not lower than 6 degrees. If it is very low the temperature degrades the starch to glucose and they brown a lot. "If they were at a very low temperature, you can use them for mashed or boiled potatoes. Or you can leave them for a few days at more than 6 degrees and then cook them in the oven or fried, "he advises.
To fry potatoes, it is advisable to cut into thick sticks (instead of thin slices.
- Cook food (vegetables, bakery products and toast) completely, in oil at no more than 175 degrees, or in the oven, but barely browned.
Its presence in food was detected by chance in 2002. Photo Shutterstock.
What about coffee
Coffee is another food in which acrylamide is present. And the fact of coming already toasted means that we can not regulate its presence. Which one to choose? Are there some with less presence of this compound?
It could be thought that the roasting has more concentration, since the process involves the presence of sugar in the roasting of the grains. Galmarini admits that in the roast there is more acrylamide, but that in the roasting there is also, depending on the grain.
To account for this, he goes to chemistry: "The issue is that in coffee, the bean has an amino acid that is the key to generating acrylamide, it is asparagine. When the coffee bean is exposed to heat, in roasting, asparagine reacts with the bean's own sugars and gives acrylamide."
"In the torrado, what is done is to add more sugars, then I can generate a little more acrylamide, but the limitation will be the amino acid," he relativizes.
That amino acid is in different concentration in the bean depending on the type of coffee. The grain called Robusta has a little more than Arabica, exemplifies to close.
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