Q&A: Does burnt food give you cancer?

8 March, 2017

By Simon Cotton
NYR Natural News

If you’re offered a plate of blackened barbecue food this summer, you might think twice about eating it.

It’s commonly thought that food that has been burnt could cause cancer. This is in part down to one particular molecule that forms when food is cooked at high temperatures, known as acrylamide. But while the chemical is a known potential toxin and carcinogen in its industrial form, the link between consuming it in food and developing cancer is much less clear.

The reason we even know about acrylamide’s potential dangers are down to a railway tunnel. Nearly 20 years ago, workers were building a tunnel through the Hallandsås ridge on the Bjäre peninsula in southern Sweden. Cows nearby started to show strange symptoms, staggering around and in some cases collapsing and dying. This prompted an investigation that showed that they had been drinking contaminated stream water and that the contamination was from a toxic molecule, acrylamide.

A common toxin

The construction workers had been using its polymer, polyacrylamide, as a crack sealant. This was, in itself, quite safe. But the polymer-forming reaction was incomplete, so some unreacted acrylamide was still present. The workers were tested to see if they also had unsafe levels of acrylamide in their blood, with a second “control” group of people who had no known exposure to industrial acrylamide used as a benchmark. However, it turned out that the control group also had surprisingly high amounts of acrylamide in their blood.

At first it was thought that burgers might be the source. Then high levels of acrylamide were found in potato products such as fried potatoes, as well as in coffee.

It then became clear that acrylamide formation was associated with carbohydrate-rich foods, rather than protein-rich ones, and with foods that had been heated above 120°C (250°F), that is food that has been fried, roasted or baked. This was a new discovery, but acrylamide must always have been formed in this style of cooking, ever since cooking was invented.

Chemical reactions

Acrylamide is formed in reactions between the natural amino-acid asparagine and some (naturally-occurring) carbohydrates. You don’t find acrylamide in uncooked or boiled food. Dairy, meat or fish products are much less likely to contain acrylamide. It doesn’t matter whether the food is “organic” or not, it’s the type of food that counts. Acrylamide is also formed when smoking tobacco.

A “golden rule” has been suggested: cook food until it goes yellow, not brown or black. This restricts acrylamide formation, though if you cook at too low a temperature you are less likely to kill off bacteria, so there is more risk of food poisoning.

While scientists have identified the source of acrylamide, they haven’t established that it is definitely a carcinogen in humans when consumed at the levels typically found in cooked food.

A 2015 review of available data concluded that “dietary acrylamide is not related to the risk of most common cancers”. Although, it added that a modest association for kidney cancer, and for endometrial and ovarian cancers in people who had never smoked, couldn’t be ruled out.

Meaty concerns

Going back to the barbecue, there are other chemicals in meat that could be a concern. These generally fall into two classes: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs – compounds with several hexagonal “benzene rings” fused together) such as naphthalene and benzopyrene; and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). The PAHs are formed from meat fat and juices dripping onto flames in cooking, and HCAs are generated, again in cooking, from reactions between molecules including amino-acids and sugars.

Animal testing has shown exposure to high levels of chemicals such as these is linked with cancer, but these are levels of exposure much higher than humans would get from eating meat. Some studies do appear to have shown that meat that has been burned, fried or barbecued is associated with higher possibilities of certain cancers, but these links are hard to prove for certain.

If you are really concerned, you could reduce exposure risks by cooking in a microwave rather than over naked flames, and turning meat regularly. You could also eat less meat or replace the meat with vegetables when grilling.

Of course, your food may not be as tasty, since grilling, baking or toasting produce a lot of molecules that enhance flavour. But if you have a healthy diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grain food, none of which contain acrylamide, things are easier.

It is all a question of proportion.


  • Simon Cotton is a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Birmingham.

Balancing your pH to prevent diseases

Balancing your pH to prevent diseases

Alkalizing the body is probably the best thing that a person can do to ensure good health and well-being. There is a direct relationship between a person’s pH and the oxygen content of his blood, and a tiny change in pH can have dramatic effects upon a person’s oxygen intake. An alkaline body pH may prevent diseases, and will help your body fight against existing ones by exponentially boosting a body’s oxygen intake. As a general rule, pathogens and cancers cannot survive in an oxygen-rich, alkaline environment.

One of the simplest ways you can make serious strides in your overall health and well-being is to balance your pH according to the author of the pH Miracle and a recent study performed at Washington University. The typical American diet is full of processed foods, chemicals and nutritionally depleted meals that affect the body’s acid-base balance. When this poor eating habit is paired with lack of exercise the result is often a case of acidosis causing havoc on your body, digestion and overall health.

Some foods are acidifying when consumed and others are alkalizing. So what you eat on a daily basis will change the pH levels of your entire system. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 (with acidic substances falling below 7 and basic substances falling above 7). Foods can either raise or lower your pH level, and this is based on the mineral content of the food not the actual pH of the food itself. Some are a bit tricky as in lemon juice which has a low pH, but has an alkalizing effect on the body when consumed.

Learn More About Uric Acid


Proof That Nuts Have Unlimited Health Benefits (NaturalOn)

There is a wide variety of nuts. Each has a different makeup, taste, and health benefit. In general, most nuts are good for you in more ways than one. The good news is that it does not take a large serving of nuts for you to reap the health benefits they have to offer. It only takes about 15 pecan halves or two dozen almonds each day to constitute a serving. The key is not in the amount, it is in the consistency. The benefits will be available for as long as you consume the nuts on a daily basis.

You may think you know what a nut is but you will be surprised to find out that there are as many different classes of nuts as there are types. Most nuts are considered a fruit. They start out as a pod that has both the seed and fruit of the plant. A botanical nut is what is referred to when the shell doesn’t open and the seed does not come out. Some examples of this are hazelnuts, acorns, and chestnuts.

Peanuts belong to the legume family, which includes beans and peas. A drupe is a fruit that contains one seed inside just as a cherry or peach does. Unlike those fruits, the seed is consumed rather than the outside of the fruit, such as walnuts, almonds, and pecans.
Nuts are nutritious An ounce of nuts has under 200 calories, about 5 grammes of protein, and 3 grammes of fibre. Nuts are rich in many vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, selenium, and manganese. The carbohydrate values vary between 2 to 8 grammes of digestible carbs per serving.

Nuts are rich in antioxidants Antioxidants are the components that keep free radicals that naturally occur in our bodies under control. They are fine when they maintain a healthy level but too many can damage your cells and it puts you at risk of contracting serious diseases. Nuts also contain polyphenols which prevent oxidative stress through the neutralisation of free radicals preventing them from harming your cells. There is a test that can gauge how much a food is able to fight the free radicals and it is called the ORAC. The study showed that walnuts had an ORAC that was larger than fish.

Nuts are an effective tool for weight loss programmes While they are not necessarily a low-calorie food, participants of a weight loss study found that those who ate nuts on a regular basis realised an average loss of 2 inches around their waist which was more than those who consumed olive oil. Pistachios are a great food for those trying to drop a few pounds. Also, people who included almonds in their daily regime lost almost three times more weight than those who did not eat almonds.

Nuts Reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels Pistachios have been proven to reduce triglycerides in those with diabetes and people who were overweight. The 12-week clinical showed that the obese people had a triglycerides level that was 33% lower than the other groups. Almonds and hazelnuts were proven to lower the LDL cholesterol as well as reduce the total cholesterol level and increase the good cholesterol levels (HDL). Other similar studies found that an ounce of peanuts, walnuts and pine nuts combined together and consumed daily for six weeks lowered all cholesterol levels. The lowered all levels except the good levels in women who suffered from metabolic syndrome. An additional clinical showed that macadamia nuts were as effective in lowering cholesterol levels as following a low-fat diet.

Nuts Help people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes When it comes to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, nuts have proven themselves to be a major benefit for those with either disease. They are a low carb food so they fit right into a low-glycemic diet. They don’t raise blood sugar levels and actually contribute to reducing them. A clinical study showed that those who ate 25 grammes of pistachios two times per day enjoyed a 9 percent reduction in their fasting blood sugar. The group also found lower blood pressure levels and CRP, or the C-reactive protein, which is a precursor to heart problems.

Adding nuts to your diet can cut your chances of stroke and heart attack With the way that many nuts are able to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you should add them to your diet daily if you want to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke. Those two vitals are what are responsible for cardiovascular issues.

Benefits Broken Down by Nuts

  • Walnuts – These popular nuts are effective in preventing heart disease. They contain an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids and help the blood flow more smoothly in order to avoid heart issues.
  • Pistachios –With their high level of fibre, pistachios help oversee the smooth transition of the foods you consume through your colon.
  • Almonds – Almonds are rich in vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese. They are important in maintaining your brain health, help lower blood pressure levels, and reduce blood sugar readings by 30 percent after patients have eaten a meal.
  • Cashews – The antioxidant properties of cashews are valuable in reducing the blood pressure levels in those suffering from metabolic syndrome.
  • Brazil nuts – The compound that brazil nuts have in abundance is selenium. These nuts help with cancer, thyroid issues, autoimmune problems, AIDS, asthma and heart disease.