Acrylamide Levels in Bread & How to Reduce Them


Acrylamide in bread

Some breads contain significant levels of acrylamide, a chemical compound that has been classified as a probable human carcinogen. Other significant dietary sources of acrylamide include crackers, cookies, French fries, and potato chips. Acrylamide is formed in bread during the baking process when the starches and amino acids in the dough react to the high temperature of the oven. Wholemeal products have been shown to contain more acrylamide than breads with a lower wholemeal-content; however, wholemeal bread is still thought to be the better option from an overall health point of view since it contains much more vitamins and minerals than white bread.

So if switching to white bread is not a smart option for health-conscious consumers, is there anything you can do to reduce those acrylamide levels in (wholemeal) bread? HealWithFood.org combed through recent research and gathered a few interesting tips on how you can reduce acrylamide levels in your bread:


Remove the crust

Removing the crust may be one of the easiest ways to reduce your acrylamide intake from bread. A Swedish study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004 found that 99% of the acrylamide in wheat bread was in the crust. This study also suggests that the color of the bread crust is a good indicator of its acrylamide content (the darker the crust of a loaf compared to other loaves baked using the same ingredients, the more acrylamide it is likely to contain).


Avoid toasted bread

According to a 2008 study conducted by a group of researchers from the Technical University of Denmark, acrylamide exposure from bread increases several-fold for people eating toasted bread, compared with people who primarily eat non-toasted bread. And if you can't stay away from the toaster, only toast your bread lightly – burned toast is one of the worst things you can eat if you're trying to reduce the acrylamide levels in your diet.


Opt for bread leavened with yeast

Fermentation of bread doughs with yeast has been shown to reduce the levels of acrylamide in the final product. Fermentation time also appears to play a role: A Swedish study published in the Cereal Chemistry Journal in 2004 found that, compared with short fermentation time (15 min plus 15 min), longer fermentation time (180 min plus 180 min) reduced acrylamide content in bread made with whole grain wheat by a whopping 87%.

Take note though: sourdough fermentation commonly used to make rye bread has not been shown to efficiently reduce the content of free asparagine (an important precursor for acrylamide) in bread dough.


Use recipes with low baking temperature

If you like to bake your own bread, look for recipes that use a relative low baking temperature, even if the baking time seems long. Baking at lower temperature but for a longer time has been shown to be effective at reducing acrylamide levels in some breads. Make sure, however, that your bread is always cooked thoroughly in order to avoid microbiological problems during storage.


Add rosemary to the dough

Recent research from Denmark suggests that the common herb rosemary may help reduce the acrylamide content of bread. Added rosemary to bread dough prior to baking wheat buns at 225°C (437°F) was found to reduce the acrylamide content of the buns by up to 60%. Even small quantities of rosemary (1% of the dough) were found to have a significant effect on the acrylamide content of bread.


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