German scientists recently published a study implying that levels of the carcinogen acrylamide in the body might not be as strongly influenced by consumption of acrylamide-containing food as widely believed, sparking heavy criticism from their peers.
Fried and baked foods such as french fries and potato chips often contain high levels of acrylamide, a reagent biochemists use to separate proteins, and a neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen. Since acrylamide was detected in fried and baked goods, it has become a contentious issue among scientists, with bitter disagreements about its origin in humans and its potential dangers to health.
In the September 30 issue of the peer-reviewed medical journal
Study co-author Michael Bader, a chemist, told
Some 80 percent of participants carried acrylamide adducts in their blood, with levels only slightly higher in non-smokers who ate acrylamide-rich foods more than once a week. A trend towards higher adduct concentration in heavy eaters of acrylamide did not reach statistical significance. However, the 99 cigarette smokers included in the study carried, on average, 1.5 micrograms per liter of blood, compared to 0.4 micrograms for non-smokers. Bader said this confirmed previous studies indicating that the human body retains a high level of acrylamide introduced by tobacco smoke. He and his colleagues suggest that a third source of acrylamide may help explain why some people carry more acrylamide in their bodies than others. For example, cosmetics, drinking water, or passive cigarette smoke can contain acrylamide.
"I think the conclusions are not valid," acrylamide expert Jürgen Angerer of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany told
Angerer added he is also highly skeptical of the study's assertion of a possible third source of acrylamide – in addition to food and smoking – in the human body. The study also came up at a recent conference of the International Society of Environmental Medicine held in Erlangen, Angerer said. "No one supported the conclusions."
In a news story in the daily
Irene Lukassowitz, head spokeswoman for the Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), declined to allow
Study co-author Bader told