A new study from China has found that curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow colour, may reduce the potential detrimental effects of acrylamide.
The compound curcumin may exert an antioxidant effect and prevent the cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of acrylamide, according to findings of a cell study with human cells published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Acrylamide is a potential carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods. Despite being a carcinogen in the laboratory, many epidemiological studies have reported that everyday exposure to acrylamide in food is too low to be of concern.
The new study built on previous findings that acrylamide led to increases in the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and damage to DNA in the HepG2 cell line.
A concentration of 2.5 micrograms per millilitre was effective at reducing the acrylamide-induced ROS production, as well as the preventing the fragmentation of DNA, and effects of cytotoxicity, report Cao and co-workers.
Commenting on the mechanism, the researchers noted that it was probably due to the antioxidant effects of curcumin.
Previous research from China has reported that extracts of green tea and bamboo leaf may also reduce acrylamide formation in foods.
Researchers from Zhejiang University's Department of Food Science and Nutrition reported that extracts from bamboo leaves and green tea could reduce the formation of acrylamide by 74.4 per cent and 74.3 per cent, respectively, when used at a level of 0.1 micrograms.
Manufacturers have adapted their food processing to reduce acrylamide formation with techniques such as bakers reducing sugar or heat. However, this was said to impact on taste.
Both DSM and Novozymes have therefore developed enzymes designed to help manufacturers reduce acrylamide in their products without impacting on sensory properties.