Burnt toast has great crunch appeal, but it may raise your risk of cancer, a new study says...
Your toaster is set at the darkest level. You drop the bread slices into it, and after they pop up, slather them with butter or jam. Oh, the delights of crunchy toast!!
Tasty and pleasing, yes, but that toast comes with a risk: cancer.
Eating extra-crispy foods, such as burnt toast, exposes you to a toxic chemical that may be linked to a higher risk of cancer, according to a new study.
The latest research, from Great Britain's Food Standards Agency, measured the levels of a cancer-causing toxin in roasted potatoes, french fries and toast cooked at home.
Acrylamide, the best-known chemical in burnt toast, is used mostly in making paper, dyes and plastics, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). It's also found in starchy foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting and baking. It doesn't come from food packaging or the environment.
The chemical is produced when sugars and certain amino acids--the building blocks of proteins--are heated together at high heat (above about 250 degrees F.). The longer the foods cook at high temperatures, the higher the level of acrylamide, according to the ACS.
The chemical was first discovered in certain foods in 2002. It's not in raw foods. It's mostly found in starchy plant foods.
The Environmental Protection Agency classifies acrylamide as "likely to be carcinogenic (cancerous) to humans," based on studies of lab animals. The National Toxicology Program--a U.S. agency made up of the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration--calls the chemical "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. "Translated: acrylamide may cause cancer.
How much of the chemical is in toast? The researchers found that the palest, least-cooked piece of toast had 9 micrograms of acrylamide per kg, while the crispiest piece of toast contained 167 micrograms.
These latest study findings follow results from a University of Texas study a few weeks ago, which found that the cancer-causing chemicals in flame-grilled meat may negatively affect the kidneys. The World Health Organization also announced that red meat is linked to cancer.
What should you do:
To avoid a higher cancer risk, cook your potatoes no darker than a "light golden" color, and set your toaster to the lightest color possible before dropping bread into it, the researchers said.
You don't have to avoid the starchy foods tested in the study, but the researchers warn consumers to be aware of how long they're cooked and their link to cancer risk.