Pregnant Women and Nursing Mothers Should Avoid French Fries, Chips
Not that this should be any breaking news for anyone, but this article addresses acrylamide, a potentially toxic compound formed when certain foods are heated to high temps. This substance recently gained much press when it was found to be present in many commonly consumed foods (search prior Updates).
Jan 14, 2003 Pregnant women and nursing mothers should sharply limit, or even cease, consumption of French fries, potato chips or other foods that contain the cancer-causing chemical acrylamide, according to study released Tuesday by German researchers.The researchers said they issued the warning for pregnant women and nursing mothers because fetuses and newborn babies are particularly susceptible to the potential harmful effects of acrylamide. The results of the study were scheduled for nationwide broadcast Tuesday evening on a German television news program.The study leader Professor Fritz Soergel, of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in Nuremberg, said that acrylamide is highly water-soluble. Foetuses and infants are therefore at greater risk than are adults because of their generally higher body water levels. Furthermore, blood brain barriers in foetuses and newborn infants are not full developed.Acrylamide first received global attention in April 2002 when Swedish researchers reported finding the chemical in fried and oven baked foods, especially in potato chips and French fries. The findings were at first greeted with scepticism, but scientists in other nations have since produced similar results.High levels of acrylamide have been found to cause cancer in rodents. Last September the US Food and Drug Administration announced a plan to reduce or eliminate concentrations of acrylamide in potato and cereal products.In Germany in the last few months, the potential health threat from acrylamide has become a major national issue, with Professor Soergel gaining a reputation as an expert.Professor Soergel recommends that nursing mothers not eat potato chips, French fries or other potatoes fried in oil at temperatures over 180 degrees centigrade, at least until their infant reaches 2 months old. He believes pregnant woman should limit acrylamide consumption to no more than 20 micrograms per day, which he says would be the equivalent of about 10 grams of potato chips.In an interview with Reuters Health, Professor Soergel, described acrylamide as a neuro-toxic agent that he believes can cause cancer in humans. Professor Soergel said that he and two colleagues–Professor Rainer Weissenbacher, of the University of Munich, and Professor Edgar Schoemig, of the University of Cologne–conducted their study during the past 6 weeks.They used mass spectrometry to measure levels of acrylamide in the bodies of pregnant women and placentas after they delivered, and also evaluated nursing mothers and their breast milk.Professor Soergel said that tests showed anywhere from 10% to 50% of the acrylamide levels found in pregnant women was transferred via blood through the placenta to foetus.In breast milk, tests revealed up to 18.8 micrograms per litre of acrylamide, he said, adding that if a newborn baby drinks slightly over half a litre per day it would be consuming nearly 10 micrograms of acrylamide.Professor Soergel told Reuters Health that his team tested breast milk from only two nursing mothers and from the placentas of three women after they gave birth. However, he insisted that despite the small sample, the research team’s main findings–that acrylamide can pass from a woman to a foetus and to a newborn through breast mild–remain valid.He added that with a larger sample, researchers will be able to more accurately determine levels of acrylamide that can pass through the placenta or into breast milk.Professor Soergel emphasised that non-fried potatoes, such as baked or boiled, are extremely healthy and should not be avoided by pregnant woman or nursing mothers. Potatoes fried at temperatures “substantially lower,” about 140 degrees centigrade, would have very low levels of acrylamide and would therefore be safe to eat, he said.