Do Certain Foods Lead to a Higher Risk of Cancer?

We seem to hear a lot nowadays about different things leading to an increased risk of cancer. The media seem to change their mind about whether certain foods are good or bad for us. Therefore, when I saw a particular news story this week, I thought it deserved a blog post. The story spoke about how foods can be better or worse for us depending on how we cook them.

According to government scientists, foods can become more dangerous the longer we cook them. Acrylamide is the substance with supposed carcinogenic properties, and it is produced when starchy foods are fried, grilled or roasted for too long at high temperatures. To avoid too much acrylamide building up, you should stop foods you cook from going brown or black.

The link between acrylamide and cancer has not yet been found in humans but there is a proven link in mice. David Spiegelhalter from Cambridge University says that adults with the highest acrylamide intake would have to have 160 times as much as they already do to reach a level that would cause problems in mice, let alone humans. It seems as though this claim is not particularly convincing.

However, there are stronger claims when it comes to food-related cancers. For example, 50 grams of processed meat per day increases your risk of bowel cancer by 18%. To put it in perspective, processed meats are responsible for a lot less cases of cancer than smoking- just over 20% of bowel cancers are caused by processed/red meat compared with 86% of lung cancers being caused by smoking.  As I mentioned my blog post about dementia, smoking is much more influential on one’s health than most other factors. One million deaths per year are alcohol-related but only 34000 are caused by these foods.

It is evident that processed meats have negative effects on our health, but for now, it seems that some overcooked roast potatoes won’t hurt you to any mildly significant extent.

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