Cancer Active
Cancer Prevention Cancer Treatment Support Us Online Shop
Chris Woolmams / Catherine Woollams
Acrylamides - Can They Damage Your Health

Originally published in October 2002 icon

Turn down the Heat - how cooking can damage your health

Turn Down the Heat - How Cooking and acrylamides can Damage your Health

Acrylamides may sound like the synthetic fabric of a swinging sixties mini-skirt in an Austin Powers movie; however, recent discoveries reveal that they are chemically produced in cooking food to high temperatures and can be dangerous to your health, whether you already have cancer or are trying to prevent cancer.

A World Health Organisation conference held in Geneva in June 2003 with twenty of the worlds top food experts, announced that acrylamides are present in a huge range of staple foods which form a large part of our diet and that they are playing an alarming role in our lives.

This, said Dr Jorgen Schlundt, head of food safety at the WHO, is not just another food scare. "The experts were unanimous and clear that this is a major concern he said.

Apparently, experts in Britain are comparing the discovery of acrylamides action to the discovery of a link between smoking and cancer Some scientists are warning their own families not to eat foods cooked at high temperatures until more research has been carried out about the dangers, such is the concern about cancer risk.

Barbecues have long been known to be dangerous because of the tendency of flames and smoke to blacken and burn the meat and especially the fat. This produces high evels of carcinogenic nitrosamines, which have been particularly implicated in bowel cancer.

Fried foods are especially bad in terms of causing cancer. Fried meat has been directly linked to a higher risk of hormone-related cancers in women, and men who eat fried food regularly have three times the risk of contracting cancer.

Salted, cured, smoked and dried meats, where products like sodium nitrite are used as preserving agents, are also linked to increased rates of cancer. However, two research reports in the last eighteen months have proved even more worrying.

This Is Not Just Another Food Scare

Cooking any meat, beef, lamb, pork, fowl, and even fish, at high temperatures creates dangerous carcinogens called Heterocyclic amines (HCAs). In particular, cooking at temperatures over 200 C should be avoided and obviously this is important when roasting food. It is better to choose lower temperatures and cook for longer. Interestingly after cooking at high temperatures, chicken was found to have up to 15 times the amount of HCAs in beef cooked the same way! It would surprise many people that cooked chicken might be more carcinogenic than beef. And now cooking at high temperatures has been found to produce carcinogens in a much wider variety of food than just meat and fish.

acrylamides Acrylamides are made from chemicals produced by the combustion of oil and hydrocarbons. when temperatures exceed 1200C (248%).

And, because they occur in common, everyday food, at the moment no one seems to know what to do about them.

However, the initial research shows they are highly carcinogenic and should be avoided at all costs, especially if you already have cancer. Acrylamides cause cellular DNA to mutate.

Acrylamides seem to be created naturally in baked or fried food when the temperature hits 120 C. They are not found in boiled or steamed food. At the moment no one is sure why or how they are created.

Acrvlamides Should Be Avoided At All Costs

Margareta Tornquist, an associate professor of environmental chemistry had been studying them and their usage in mineral processing and paper manufacturing. When she found them in foods earlier this year, all hell broke loose. Within four months the Swedish Food Agency had researched common processed foods and two months later the WHO was meeting in Geneva.

So little is known that the WHO conference came up with tour basic questions to be answered:

Why do acrylamides form during cooking?
How should we test for them?
How many foods contain them?
What is their potential impact on health?

WHOs head of food safety said, "The findings are very serious and must be addressed urgently" Professor Tornquist added, "there is no safe threshold".

Figures reported in the Sunday Telegraph from both the equivalent Swedish and British Food Standards Authorities showed (in micrograms per kilo) the worst offenders to be fries, chips and crisps and breakfast cereals. Over-frying greatly worsens the levels.

For example, in micrograms per Kilogram:

Overcooked Chips Cooked Chips McDonalds Fries Burger King Fries

12,800 3,500 755 514

Asda maize/potato sticks Pringles Walkers Crisps

2,040 1,480 1,270

Ryvita Crackers Biscuits

1,453 534 230

Kelloggs Special "K" Fitness (Nestle) Cheerios All Bran Plus

269 254 207 99

Cornflakes Muesli

53 30


Acrylamides were not detected in flour, rice, raw or boiled potatoes and uncooked or boiled meat All the experts agree that much more research is needed before guidelines can be announced, but these new discoveries could change our eating habits for ever.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at Thames Valley University believes acrylamide and other chemicals could show why cancer is so common in developed countries.

"Britain has a much better diet now than in the past but we and other western peoples increasingly die prematurely from diet-related disease such as cancer" he said. "The discovery of acrylamide could be the explanation we need, It means that these deaths could be caused by modern food processsing and cooking techniques".

So, while we are waiting for the results of new research and further announcements, if you want to make yourself as healthy as possible, turn down the heat and throw away the frying pan. You have been warned!

Want the latest news on this?
Print This Page
  Search Website
Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter
Melatonin - self defence against cancer

CANCERactive Website Appeal
raised of £25,000 target

Click Here to donate

Select a donation amount:
Enter a donation amount:

Gift Aid:
So that CANCERactive can claim back 25p for every £1 donated, I confirm that I am a UK tax payer, who has paid over enough tax for you to reclaim this amount

Sign up for icon


Our icon magazine is available free in over 500 UK hospitals, cancer centres and libraries. Full of great articles and the very latest cancer information, you can have it sent to your own home.

Buy online

The CANCERactive Patient Group (CAPG) – Run by Patients, for Patients

  • Tell your Story
  • Start a Blog
  • Start a Diary Blog
  • Start a Discussion
  • Ask a Question

Search Drugs


Quick search for YOUR DRUG here  

Search Drugs


Quick search for a COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY here 

Search Complementary Therapies



Search Alternative Therapies

Important Notice

At CANCERactive we provide information that is already in the public domain.  It is not our intention to provide advice. It is up to the reader to decide if any of the matters to which any article refers might be suitable for them.


Follow CHRIS WOOLLAMS, the UK's number 1 cancer researcher, on his free e-news and keep right up to date with the very latest cancer information and research

 click here

  click here

click here


CANCERactive information and publications (books, magazine and leaflets)

CANCERactive compiled books

Heal Your Gut Heal Your Body

A real paradigm shift - this book will help you really understand exactly what to do to be in great health.

Click here to find out more.

The Brand new 4th edition of Everything You Need to Know to Help You Beat Cancer

"This book is head and shoulders above the rest". Geoffrey Boycott

Click here to find out more.

The Rainbow Diet - and how it can help you beat cancer

"At last the definitive book on a diet to fight cancer". Mrs BS Devon.

 Click here to find out more...

Brand new 3rd edition of Oestrogen The Killer in our Midst

"Learn how to take control of your oestrogen levels"

 Click here to find out more...

CANCERactive magazine (free in hospitals and complementary cancer centres)


Free downloadable prevention leaflets


Buy online

Donate to Us

We can only help people like you - if people like you help us!

Buy online

Fund Raising


Interested? Click here for more information

Click here to see all our fundraising events.

Click here and see what events are taking place and perhaps sponsor one of our supporters. 

Click here for other ways to raise money for CANCERactive.

Or if you want more information about our other fun activities, the Peru trek, our sky diving etc. click the button below.

Click here for our Just Giving page and see what our supporters are doing for us.

Click here for our Virgin Money Giving page.

Buy online

Visit a Catherine Corner

Catherine Wollams

Buy online

Need a Support Group?  

Find a cancer support group near you, now.
Buy online

So what is the truth behind mammograms, drug clinical trials, the PSA test and prostate surgery, and the stories you read in the press?Go to Junk Science to read the unbiased truth. Click Here.


Do you have a problem with our factual content?

If you have research which conflicts with ours, just address it to 'The Medical Board'. Ever since we started this site we have had an 'open-mind' policy and have expert oncology doctors and professors who will address your concerns.

© Copyright 2017 CANCERactive. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format and provided, where used to publish on a website, that website provides a link to If any other use is desired, permission in writing from CANCERactive is required.
All content and images © Copyright 2017 - Website design and maintenance by a Web design and Search engine marketing company