The Acrylamide in Fried Foods Debate.

By Redstone Promotional Communications /

You're probably wondering what the two foods in the photos above have in common regarding this article. Well, you could consider them the polar opposites of the food world, the evil villain vs the good hero, or, you can read about their scientific connection below.

Recently the FDA warned consumers against eating dark-browned, fried and baked foods because they contain a chemical called acrylamide (AA) which is formed when heat causes the structure of starchy and sugary foods to change. This chemical is created from sugars and an amino acid that is normally found in food, but usually does not form in dairy, meat and fish products. The Grocery Manufacturers Association explains that acrylamide is mostly found in plant products that have the "browning Maillard reaction," meaning the food gets a different flavor, texture or color when heat is applied.

Vitally important in the preparation or presentation of many types of food, the Maillard reaction is named after chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first discovered it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis. The Maillard process is accelerated in an alkaline environment, such as when lye is applied to darken pretzels, and the process is used to create hundreds of different flavor compounds with restaurants, bakeries, and food manufacturers. These compounds, in turn, break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds flavor scientists have used over the years to make reaction (they mean addicting) flavors.

An important note pertaining to the lack of research in this process regarding humans, but that has implications in the animal world, is that in making silage for animal feed, excess heat causes the Maillard reaction to occur, which reduces the amount of energy and protein available to the animals who feed on it. If you were to apply this concept to humans and cooked food, it would be safe to assume that the same thing happens to foods that we heat: they lose available protein and energy. I guess the macrobiotic diet people have known that all along, and this evidence certainly supports their belief that raw, unprocessed foods are the most nutritious and healthy.

Typically, the browner the food when cooked, the more acrylamide it contains. However, acrylamide has been found in the human diet ever since people cooked via baking, grilling, roasting, toasting and frying food items. It can be found in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet. So how concerned should we be about the FDA's recent warning? Well, we decided to dig a little deeper than most of the news media articles we have found so far.

Scientists only discovered acrylamide in 2002, so research on the chemical is relatively new. Acrylamide has been linked to higher rates of cancer in animals, leading health officials to believe that it may be a carcinogen for humans as well. But what most of the news media failed to relay to consumers is just how concerned they should be. What, if anything, can be done about it? And is it the Maillard reaction itself that is dangerous, or just acrylamide? We dug for the answers from top scientific research done over the years.

The Maillard reaction also occurs in the human body. It is a step in the formation of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) and can be clinically tracked by measuring pentosidine in the body. Although the Maillard reaction has been studied most extensively in foods, it has also shown a correlation in numerous different diseases in the human body, in particular degenerative eye diseases. In general, these diseases are due to the accumulation of AGEs on nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids. Though AGEs have numerous origins, they can form from the oxidation and dehydration of Amadori adducts, which themselves are products of nonenzymatic Maillard reactions. Apart from ocular diseases, whose correlation with Maillard chemistry has been more recently studied, the formation of AGEs has also proven to contribute to a wide range of human diseases that include diabetic complications, pulmonary fibrosis, and neurodegeneration.

Advanced glycation in numerous different locations within the eye can prove detrimental. In the cornea, whose endothelial cells have been known to show galectin-3, the accumulation of AGEs is associated with thickened corneal stroma, corneal edema, and morphological changes within patients with diabetes. Within the lens, Maillard chemistry has been studied extensively in the context of cataract formation. Advanced glycation is known to alter fiber membrane integrity in the lens, and dicarbonyl compounds are known to cause increased aggregate formation within the lens. This effect is exacerbated by both diabetes and aging.

Glycation in Maillard reactions may lead to destabilization of the vitreous gel structure within the eye via unnecessary cross-linking between collagen fibrils. Again, this process is more strongly observed within diabetic patients. Within the retina, the accumulation of AGEs has been associated with age, and has also been observed at a higher level among patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is manifested by the thickening of the Bruch’s membrane. Furthermore, it has been observed that AGE levels increase with age within the lamina cribrosa, and the products of the Maillard reaction have been found there as well.

.According to the U.S. Library of Medicine (NLM), a wide range of ocular diseases, particularly diabetic retinopathy, may be prevented by the inhibition of the Maillard reaction. This may be achieved in numerous ways by preventing the formation of AGEs, reducing the effectiveness of the AGE signaling pathway and the receptor-ligand interactions, or breaking the AGE crosslinks.

This data seems to make it highly likely that cooking of food is a major source of excess acrylamide (AA) found in humans. An evaluation of cancer tests of AA and available data for its metabolism leads to the estimation that the excessive dose of AA is associated with a considerable cancer risk.

The NLM also found that myricitrin can effectively scavenge multiple free radicals in what they call a concentration-dependent manner. Their results further indicated that the presence of myricitrin (2.5-10  μ g/mL) was found to significantly inhibit acrylamide-induced toxicity in human gastrointestinal cells. Moreover, acrylamide-induced toxicity is closely related to oxidative stress in cells.

"Interestingly, myricitrin was able to suppress acrylamide toxicity by inhibiting ROS (oxidative stress) generation. Taken together, these results demonstrate that myricitrin had a profound antioxidant effect and can protect against acrylamide-mediated cell toxicity."

Myricetin is a naturally occurring flavonol, a flavonoid found in grapes, berries, fruits, vegetables, herbs, as well as other plants, which has antioxidant properties. Walnuts are a rich dietary source. Trace amounts of myricetin can be called glycosides, one of the phenolic compounds present in red wine. In vitro research suggests that myricetin has other health benefits, in that high concentrations can modify LDL (goog) cholesterol such that uptake by white blood cells is increased. A Finnish study correlated high myricetin consumption with lowered rates of prostate cancer among many other health benefits.

There is one slight downfall to myricetin, and that is that it tends to decrease melatonin levels at night. So be sure to get your 15 minutes of daily safe sunshine to keep your melatonin and seratonin levels up if you decide to increase your consumption of grapes, berries, walnuts and fruits to compensate for over-cooked browned foods in your diet.

Photos from top: 1.) French fries are particularly high in acrylamide because they are high in starch and sugar. 2.) The antioxidants in grapes can combat acrylamide. 3.) Overly browned breads such as these dark brown brioche buns are high in acrylamde. Baked goods should only be cooked to a light brown color 4.) Raw walnuts are the best combatant against high levels of acrylamide in the body.

Alan W. Stitt (2005). "The Maillard Reaction in Eye Diseases". Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1043: 582–97. doi:10.1196/annals.1338.066. PMID 16037281
Tareke E; Rydberg P. et al. (2002). "Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs". J. Agric. Food. Chem. 50 (17): 4998–5006. doi:10.1021/jf020302f. PMID 12166997
Acrylamide: a cooking carcinogen? Tareke E, Rydberg P, Karlsson P, Eriksson S, Törnqvist M.
Source: Department of Environmental Chemistry, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:724183. doi: 10.1155/2013/724183. Epub 2013 Oct 9.
Myricitrin inhibits acrylamide-mediated cytotoxicity in human caco-2 cells by preventing oxidative stress.
Chen W, Feng L, Shen Y, Su H, Li Y, Zhuang J, Zhang L, Zheng X.


Gallbladder disease and Unnecessary Surgeries.

by Ronald Hoffman, M.D., CNS

Gallbladder disease is a modern illness. An estimated twenty million Americans have gallbladder disease. The sole function of the gallbladder is to store bile, which is produced in the liver and aids in the digestion of fats in the small intestine. The gallbladder has become a prime target for surgical intervention; in fact, this is the most common type of major surgery. Sometimes it's done to reduce pain, sometimes to remove gallstones. It's especially common among women who are receiving estrogen replacement therapy, since estrogen stimulates the production of gallstones. (Accordingly, women with gallstone problems are probably not good candidates for oral estrogen replacement; they might do better with a transdermal estrogen patch.) This is a degenerative disease that's clearly related to diet. A study performed at the University Hospital of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, found that the incidence of gallbladder surgery went up by 600 percent in that country as the people shifted from a simpler, nomadic existence, eating traditional foods, to a more sedentary lifestyle "enriched" by all the sugary, fat-laden foods of the developed world.

In gallbladder disease, bile in the gallbladder becomes concentrated and thickens. Gallstones are born out of this sludge from cholesterol and bile salts. The end result of the disease process is inflammation (cholecystitis) or stones (cholelithiasis). A gallbladder attack occurs when the gallstone blocks the flow of bile from the gallbladder and is manifested as a pain in the right side (sometimes perceived in the right shoulder because of referred pain) as severe as the excruciating pain of a heart attack.

Having gallstones doesn't mean that one should rush right out, consult a surgeon, and schedule major surgery. You can live with gallstones and be symptom free. Physicians have noticed that certain foods can initiate a gallbladder attack in patients who have gallstones. When these foods were eliminated from their diet, their gallbladder symptoms disappeared. In explanation, it is thought there might be a food allergy mechanism at work, wherein the gallbladder responds to the allergy-producing food with symptoms of a gallbladder attack.
The most frequently offending foods are eggs, pork, onions, poultry, milk, coffee, oranges, corn, beans, and nuts.

I've seen many people, however, who suffered from gallbladder pain, had the operation, and then suffered from a postoperative syndrome: the stones were out but they still had pain. And that's pretty aggravating, because their doctor suggested that the stones were the source of the pain. In some cases, the gallbladder is removed only to reveal that it wasn't the source of the pain, that there was some other somatic cause unrelated to whatever stones or sludge might have appeared in the gallbladder.

So if your gallbladder is really shot and if you're having pain all the time, have it out. But most people can pretty well poke along with an asymptomatic gallbladder. Sporadic gallbladder attacks that respond to diet changes, and the presence of gallstones identified by sonogram, are not in themselves an indication for surgery. The pain can be brought under control with dietary modification, and the presence of the stones by itself doesn't mean you need to have them taken out. But this is how it's presented to people. Surgeons will show you a sonogram of a gallbladder laden with stones as a selling point to get you on board for the surgery. It can be hard to resist this kind of pitch from a medical expert, but unfortunately this represents a situation that patients often find themselves in

• Lose excess weight. But don't crash diet! Rapid weight loss contributes to the formation of gallstones.

• Eat a healthy diet. A diet that is low in fat, low in cholesterol, low in sugar, and high in fiber will help prevent gallbladder disease. Fat, cholesterol, and sugar all contribute to gallbladder disease. Slow intestinal transit can be prevented by increasing fiber in the diet. And eat more vegetables! A British study showed that vegetarians have a lower incidence of gallbladder disease.

• Avoid food triggers. As mentioned before, there's a correlation between gallbladder attack symptoms and certain foods in people who are sensitive to them. Be on the lookout for food triggers.

• Take and nutrients. Omega-3 oil, found in fish, may block cholesterol formation in bile. People with a tendency toward gallstones can take a higher dose than normal: four to six 1000-milligram capsules of fish oil a day. Lecithin has an emulsifying effect on bile, and taurine, an amino acid, binds to bile salts and accelerates their elimination.


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This health section is updated monthly to give our members a chance to view it, so check back the first of every month for new posts. Disclaimer: This page is designed to offer information only on topics the average person can use themselves. It is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

HOME REMEDIES: Upset Stomach, Fullness, Bloating.

With the holidays upon us, this seemed like an appropriate remedy to feature this month.

Plant Enzymes: Bromelain and Papaya Enzymes will help you digest that big holiday meal much better and stop you from becoming so bloated, experiencing heartburn or other digestive problems from eating rich, heavy foods that you're not used to. Plant enzymes work much better than animal-based enzymes because they can sustain the acid of the stomach and actually make it to the intestines where they will do the most good.

Fresh Ginger Root: Works wonderfully for nausea and helps digestion. This was the basis behind ginger ale years ago, but these days, you would be hard-pressed to find any real ginger in most ginger ales.

Pineapple Juice: Organic, 100% real pineapple juice that's not diluted with other fruit juices contains bromelain, a powerful digestive enzyme that will help process that big meal or rich dessert. Raw, fresh pineapple would be best. If you can find some way to incorporate it into your dessert, or as an after-meal palette cleanser possibly with some fresh ginger root, your guests will appreciate it a great deall.

Fresh Fennel Seed: Is excellent for gas and bloating. Fennel seed has been used to combat colic in babies. Try to find the freshest (greenest looking) seed in the spices section of any grocery store.


How to use herbs for maximum benefit.  Short and sweet descriptions and uses written by our on-staff Nutritional Herbalist.  Always remember that herbs should be treated as a medicine. Almost all of our modern-day medicines are derived from compounds found in herbs and plants. If you have not used a particular herb before, try a half dose at first to make sure you do not have an unfavorable reaction to it.

Dill Anethum graveolens.

Medicinal Properties: Seeds are used for colic in babies and adults - works with horses as well. Helps with stomach problems such as gas, indigestion.

Hiccups: Dill is a traditional remedy for hiccups. Mixing a spoonful of fresh dill into boiling water, straining the water, and then drinking the liquid will get rid of hiccups. Some people say that just drinking a few ounces of dill pickle juice will also do the trick.

Dill weed is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Copper is a cofactor for many vital enzymes.

How to Use: Sprinkle on foods, make a tea of the crushed seed or eat the seed raw. Dill weed is excellent in pasta and fresh salads, and of course, pickles.

Parts Used: Whole upper part of plant and seeds.

Growing: Easy to grow in the garden from seed. After all danger of frost, broadcast the seed over soil that holds some moisture, cover with about 1/4 inch of soil, water well and keep moist until germination. Water moderately throughout the summer as dill does not like hard, dry dirt.

Some Herb Basics: Most herbs work better on an empty stomach. A few exceptions are garlic, goldenseal and cayenne due to stomach upset. Herbs work in a cumulative fashion meaning they are not a "one dose wonder." They need to build up in the system a little, usually within 2-3 doses, before any real affect can be noticed. Fresh herbs always work better than old herbs and science is always proving the fact that a whole herb usually is more effective than one isolated compound of that herb.



Do you know what foods will give you more energy, calm your nerves, act as an anti-inflammatory, help prevent cancers, or help you lose weight? Hopefully this column will help you to have a better understanding of food and its healing properties. The best diet for optimal health is a wide variation of foods, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and minimally cooked whole foods. Sweets, fatty foods, meat, dairy and carbs in moderation.


Therapeutic Properties: I had a customer a few years ago who would come into my store solely to buy cherries. He swore they were the only thing that helped his gout. Since then, I have read the same thing about cherries for gout and arthritis, which confirms his claim. Excess uric acid in the blood is the culprit behind the excruciating pain that causes swelling, tenderness and inflammation associated with gout and arthiritis.  A study done by the USDA found that uric acid can be reduced by as much as 15 percent by eating 2 cups of Bing cherries. Cherries can also help reduce painful inflammation by decreasing the amount of C-reactive protein produced.

Cyanidin is a flavonoid from the anthocyanin group found in cherries that helps keep cancerous cells from growing out of control. And, for cherries with the most anthocyanins go for sweet cherries with the deepest pigment; crimson-purple rather than bright red.

Sleep Aid: Tart cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps make you feel sleepy. Two tablespoons of tart cherry juice has been shown in studies to be just as effective as a melatonin supplement. 

Black cherries have an enzyme that fights plaque on teeth. Cherry juice is a good laxative.

Acid or Alkaline: Alkaline.

Significant Nutrients: Potassium - one cup of cherries has the same amount of potassium as a banana. High in vitamin C. Fiber - a cup of cherries is less than 100 calories and packs in 3 grams of fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer. Also, these tasty gems contain many B-vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B6; these vitamins are crucial for metabolism and convert nutrients into energy. 

Phytoestrogen? Yes.

Become a Circkles subcriber and join our Recipe of the Month Club for ways to incorporate Foods That Heal into your meals and get our latest recipes sent to you automatically.

You can find more herbs and home remedies in The Circkles Hangout under the Main Menu. (Sorry, you must be a subscriber of


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December 2013

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"The Doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."
~Thomas Edison
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