Acrylamide: What is it, Where is it found, its effects and toxic doses

Acrylamide: What is it, Where is it found, its effects and toxic doses

Today we are going to talk about a substance present in our lives, whether we like it or not: Acrylamide, or if we look at its chemical composition, 2 -propenamide

We are increasingly concerned about our health. We have more and more knowledge about what elements harm or benefit our health. This can only be a good thing.

Unfortunately, at the same time that this happens, there is the fact that our society, its functioning, and its characteristics, make it extremely difficult for us to achieve optimal health.

What is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a toxin that we consume mainly with food, created from the reaction produced when some amino acids, especially Asparagine and certain simple sugars, interact at high temperatures.

Acrylamide has shown neurotoxic, genotoxic and cytotoxic effects in animal models and in some human experiments, and the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) classifies it as a carcinogenic potential (1)

Where do we find Acrylamide

There are many foods that contain Acrylamide

It is created by cooking meat at high temperatures (grill, barbecue) and in the processes of industrial processing (2), when the famous Millard reaction occurs. strong>, in which, as we said before, amino acids and simple sugars interact to form Acrylamide aggregates.

Fried foods and Acrylamide

Coffee, industrial bread or potato derivatives, such as French fries, are good examples

And let’s not forget fried foods, which are not only worrying due to their high energy density and content of oxidised lipids, but also due to their Acrylamide content, which is considerable.

As a general rule, the recipe to obtain Acrylamide would be the following: High temperatures (>120 degrees) + Simple carbohydrates + Asparagine

What dose do we usually ingest?

Estimated doses ingested by the average person in the West are 0.3 to 2 mcg/kg/day

The question is whether these doses are really a threat to health or not

It is true that in animal experimentation, a model from which most conclusions about Acrylamide have been drawn, the doses used are quite high and most of us do not even come close only with food intake.

However, our diet continues to change for the worse and the rise in the intake of ultra-processed products and refined carbohydrates means that the amounts of Acrylamide present in our diet continue to grow (3).

Toast and Acrylamide

We must prevent the toast from “burning”…

As a curious fact, the largest source of Acrylamide in the Western diet is bread (besides the largest source of salt and probably carbohydrates). And we eat a lot, a lot of bread

How is acrylamide absorbed, metabolised and distributed?

We can come into contact with Acrylamide in three different ways:

  1. Through the skin (cosmetics),
  2. Through the respiratory system (for example, by breathing tobacco smoke), or
  3. Through the digestive tract (with food).

Tobacco smoke and Acrylamide

Acrylamide (AA) is metabolized in the liver by the Cytochrome P450 enzyme system to give another toxic compound, Glycidamide, which will be metabolised by Glutathione Reductase (GSH), producing Glutathione conjugates that are excreted in the urine.

As a worrying fact, only 50% of daily Acrylamide is “purified”, and its half-life is 2 to 7 hours (quite long)

That is, our body has a hard time getting rid of this toxin

Toxic effects of acrylamide

Let’s now look at the potential health effects of Acrylamide.

Increased oxidative stress and genotoxic effects

Oxidative stress occurs when the content of reactive oxygen species (ROS) exceeds the rate of their neutralization by antioxidant agents.

When there is an excess of ROS circulating around the body, they bind to elements such as lipids, producing lipid peroxidation or even more dangerous,peroxidation in our DNA. One of the most feared consequences of oxidative stress is the oxidation of DNA bases and the fragmentation of the DNA double helix.

In fact, AA binds to guanine, facilitating said splitting of the double helix, as reflected in this work (4).

On the other hand, Acrylamide indirectly facilitates said oxidative stress, since Glutathione is one of the body’s main antioxidants and Acrylamide produces its depletion when this is needed. for the neutralization of the substance, all of which increases this imbalance in the redox state

Neurotoxic effects

The only negative effect fully demonstrated and attributable to Acrylamide in the human population is the peripheral neuropathy that occurs with high exposures to this substance that have occurred in some workers in various industries.

Dangers of Acrylamide

It seems that AA alters the myelination of the peripheral nerve, decreases the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and conjugates with Cysteine residues (as you can see, it has a great appetite for this amino acid) in pre-synaptic proteins responsible for the release of neurotransmitters

Potential carcinogenic effect

Due to its deleterious genotoxic effects, acrylamide has been shown in murine models to increase the number of mammary and thyroid tumours.

Friedman and collaborators found that when they added acrylamide to the water of these rats, the poor rats developed this type of tumor more frequently (5)

In human lymphocytes in vitro, Blasiak was able to verify that there was greater DNA breakage, greater activity of caspase-3 (an enzyme that intervenes in its repair), greater cell apoptosis rate and decreased DNA repair when cells were exposed to Acrylamide (6)


The usual consumption doses of Acrylamide in the West range from 1 mcg/kg of weight to 8 mcg/kg of weight in the most extreme cases

A dose close to the lower range should not cause any problems (although the safest intake is zero).

However, when we approach the upper range of the interval, problems begin to appear and the evidence to date cannot rule out that the effects produced in animals are not also produced in humans.

As a general rule, it’s better to avoid ultra-processed and fried products and this, in turn, allows is to avoid the largest amount of Acrylamide in the diet (among many other things). Consume fresh and seasonal products, avoid cooking at high temperatures and enjoy a varied diet in which there is not an excessive presence of a single food.

These are the basic rules to avoid contact with the majority of food toxins with which we have had to live.

A hug to all. See you in the next article!

Bibliographical Sources

  1. Pingot D, Pyrzanowski K, Michałowicz J, Bukowska B. TOXICITY OF ACRYLAMIDE AND ITS METABOLITE – GLICYDAMIDE. Med Pr [Internet]. 2013 Mar 3 [cited 2019 Jan 31]; Available from:,444,0,1.html
  2. Mottram DS, Wedzicha BL, Dodson AT. Food chemistry: Acrylamide is formed in the Maillard reaction. Nature. 2002;
  3. Semla M, Goc Z, Martiniaková M, Omelka R, Formicki G. Acrylamide: A common food toxin related to physiological functions and health. Physiol Res. 2017;
  4. Doerge DR, Gamboa Da Costa G, McDaniel LP, Churchwell MI, Twaddle NC, Beland FA. DNA adducts derived from administration of acrylamide and glycidamide to mice and rats. Mutat Res – Genet Toxicol Environ Mutagen. 2005;
  5. Friedman M. Chemistry, biochemistry, and safety of acrylamide. A review. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2003.
  6. Blasiak J, Gloc E, Wozniak K, Czechowska A. Genotoxicity of acrylamide in human lymphocytes. Chem Biol Interact. 2004;

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About Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera, a young doctor dedicated to the areas of nutrition, exercise and metabolism, combines his clinical activity with his vocation for dissemination.
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