State of the Science
Since acrylamide was first found in food in 2002, scientists and regulators across the globe have been studying its formation to determine if it poses a risk to human health. Regulatory agencies in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere have reviewed findings from the more than 200 research projects to learn more about acrylamide’s presence in the human diet. While significant above-average acrylamide intake has been found to produce cancer in laboratory animals, scientists have not conclusively determined if these findings are relevant to humans.
- In July 2014, the European Food Safety Authority released a draft scientific opinion assessing the current state of research into the health effects of dietary acrylamide. The review found that human studies have not shown dietary acrylamide to be a human carcinogen. At the same time, EFSA recommended more epidemiological studies to assess other possible health effects of dietary acrylamide.
- In late 2012, researchers at the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Maryland, the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee released findings in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention from 15 epidemiologic studies examining almost every kind of cancer. The report found "no consistent or credible evidence that dietary acrylamide increases the risk of any type of cancer in humans," and that research so far has “consistently failed to detect an increased risk of cancer” from exposure to dietary acrylamide.
- Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health recently examined the potential association between acrylamide intake and prostate cancer. Their study, published in the September 2011 UroToday International Journal (subscription required), found no evidence that acrylamide intake, within the range of U.S. diets, is associated with an increased risk of this form of cancer.
- In 2009, two independent studies examined a possible correlation between dietary intake of acrylamide and breast cancer. First, researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden monitored more than 60,000 women over several years and found no link between dietary acrylamide intake and breast cancer. Likewise, a 2009 study conducted by Harvard University arrived at the same conclusion. That study entailed more than 90,000 premenopausal women.
- The National Food Institute in Denmark found a slight correlation between breast cancer and dietary acrylamide intake in 2009, but concluded that much larger and more extensive research is needed to conclusively interpret these findings.
- Several other studies have examined the link between dietary intake of acrylamide and various forms on cancer, including brain, lung, prostate, colorectal, bladder, and endometrial. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Karolinska Institutet published a summary of these studies and others in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
In addition to these academic studies, several governmental bodies are examining how acrylamide forms in food, at what levels it appears, and what risk, if any, it poses to human health. Research findings to date are likely to provide the scientific basis necessary for regulatory initiatives and dietary recommendations.
For now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, the World Health Organization and others recommend a balanced diet, including high-fiber grains, fruits and vegetables and foods that are low in trans fats and saturated fats, as the best way to prevent cancer and other illnesses.
Meanwhile, the food industry is continuing to work with regulators to develop effective methods for reducing acrylamide in commercial settings.