About a year ago, we received the depressing news that high levels of a chemical found in the foods we love to eat, like potato chips, french fries and bread, raises the risk of getting cancer. Acrylamide is a cancer-causing chemical that forms as a result of a reaction at high temperatures between specific sugars and other chemicals found in food. But now scientists have reversed themselves and say the amount in fried and baked foods is not enough to cause cancer.

Researchers studied the diets of 987 cancer patients and 538 healthy people, in order to see if there was any link between cancer the amount of high-acrylamide food they ate. Each person filled out a detailed questionnaire, listing how often they ate a total of 188 different types of food, including potato chips, french fries, fried potatoes, bread and other baked goods. Harvard researcher Dr Lorelei Mucci says, “The discovery last year that many types of food contained high levels of acrylamide was disturbing, since acrylamide is classified as a probable carcinogen. It’s therefore reassuring that the levels of acrylamide that individuals are generally exposed to through food do not appear to increase the risk of these cancers?This study provides preliminary evidence that there’s less to worry about than was thought.”

Smoking, besides being bad for you in other ways, is also a major source of acrylamide. However, high levels of acrylamide are actually linked to a lower rate of bowel cancer, probably because many of the foods that contain it are also high fiber, which reduces the risk of the disease.

Paul Nurse, of Cancer Research U.K., says, “We know that acrylamide can be carcinogenic to animals, but this study suggests that either levels in food are too low to affect cancer risk, or that the body is able to deactivate the chemical in some way.”

Who knows what miracles our bodies can do?

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