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Vitamins reduce the formation of acrylamide, prevent cancer

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By David Liu, PHD

Thursday Oct 18, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Acrylamide may be one potent carcinogen. This highly toxic chemical is formed in foods subject to thermal processing like fries, baked goods and others.  The chemical has been found in DNA adducts in breast tissue, suggesting that it may increase risk of mutagenesis in the breast or even breast cancer.

A recent study led by  Dr. J. Michael Gaziano at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the VA Boston Healthcare System and colleagues have shown using vitamins reduce the overall cancer risk.  But they could not explain why.

One of the reasons that vitamins protect against cancer is that vitamins can prevent the formation of acrylamide. Although much of acrylamide in human body may be exogenous, studies suggest that this carcinogen can be formed in vivo.

One study led by E Tareke of Toxicologic Pathology Association, Inc. in Jefferson, Arkansas and colleagues reported evidence in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggesting acrylamide can be formed in vivo.

Good news is that vitamins can help drastically reduce the formation of this cancer-causing agent, according to Chinese researchers in Hong Kong, China.

Xiaohui Zenga of The University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, China and colleagues published a study in Food Chemistry, suggesting water soluble vitamins are effective in inhibiting the formation of acrylamide.

The researchers tested 15 vitamins in model systems and a real food and found many of them can reduce the formation of acrylamide during food processing by more than 50 percent.

For the study, Zenga et al. tested water soluble vitamins in both chemical model systems containing acrylamide precursors (asparagine and glucose) and a food model system, fried snack products.

The researchers found biotin, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) inhibit the formation of acrylamide by more than 50 percent.  These water soluble vitamins can also effectively inhibit the formation of acrylamide in the food system.

Fat soluble vitamins were also tested and only found to render weak inhibitory effects against the formation of acrylamide in chemical model systems.

Pyridoxal, nicotinic acid and vitamin D were also tested in french fries.  It was found that nicotinic acid and pyridoxal inhibited the acrylamide formation in the food by 51 and 34 percent respectively.

The researchers concluded "certain vitamins at reasonable concentrations can inhibit the formation of acrylamide."

These studies suggest that taking multivitamins or individual vitamins can help reduce cancer risk.  And one explanation is that vitamins can suppress a carcinogen formation or even prevent the carcinogen from interacting with DNA and prevent the development of cancer. 

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