Many people love to eat potato chips like the famous “stackable” Pringles. But did you know that these delightful snacks may contain a harmful cancer-causing chemical? Dr. Joseph Mercola explains how Pringles and other potato chips can lead to severe health problems.
The Pringles Manufacturing Process
Contrary to popular belief, not all potato chips are made from actual potatoes. For example, Pringles potato chips are a mix of wheat, rice, corn, and potato flakes that are pressed together. The dough-like substance is then rolled out into a very thin sheet and cut into chips by a machine.
“The chips move forward on a conveyor belt until they’re pressed onto molds, which give them the curve that makes them fit into one another.
Those molds move through boiling oil … Then they’re blown dry, sprayed with powdered flavors, and at last, flipped onto a slower-moving conveyor belt in a way that allows them to stack.
From then on, it’s into the cans … and off towards the innocent mouths of the consumers. ” (link)
Dr. Mercola warns that this seemingly harmless process (cooking potato chips at high temperatures), which is also used by other potato chip manufacturers, actually produces a harmful cancer-causing byproduct called acrylamide.
This Carcinogen Lurks in Your Favorite Snacks
Acrylamide is a harmful and potentially neurotoxic chemical that is made when carbohydrate-rich foods like potato chips and French fries are cooked at a high temperature (above 212°F or 100°C), whether fried, baked, toasted, or roasted. When the heating turns the food’s surface into a dry brown or yellow color, acrylamide forms.
Foods that contain acrylamide include:
- Grains: bread crust, crisp bread, toast, roasted breakfast cereals and processed snacks
- Potatoes: French fries, chips, and other roasted or fried potato foods
- Coffee: ground coffee powder and roasted coffee beans. Coffee substitutes based on chicory actually contains two or three times more acrylamide than real coffee.
Dr. Mercola says that for drinking water, the federal limit for acrylamide is only 0.5 parts per billion, or at least 0.12 micrograms in an eight-ounce glass of water. This is why it is disturbing to know that a six-ounce serving of French fries contains at least 60 micrograms of acrylamide – 500 times over the allowed limit!
Dr. Mercola says potato chips also contain high amounts of this hazardous chemical. A 2005 report issued by the California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) detailed the dangers of acrylamide in potato chips. Their analysis revealed that all potato chip products they tested went beyond the legal limit of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times and as much as 910 times! The worst offenders included:
- Kettle Chips (honey dijon) 495 times the legal limit of acrylamide
- Kettle Chips (lightly salted): 505 times
- Cape Cod Robust Russet: 910 times (link)
This prompted the state of California to sue potato chip makers for failing to warn consumers about the health risks of acrylamide in their products. A settlement was only reached in 2008 when Frito-Lay and several other potato chip makers reduced the acrylamide levels in their products to 275 parts per billion (ppb) by 2011 – this is low enough to avoid needing a cancer warning label. However, there is still no update on whether they complied with the settlement.
Dr. Mercola also warns that baked potato chips, often touted as “healthier,” also contain acrylamide. In fact, they may even contain more than three times the level of acrylamide in regular chips!
Other Dangers Lurking in Your Potato Chips
Aside from acrylamide, there are more than 800 heat-induced compounds – 52 of which are potentially carcinogenic – created when potato chips and other foods are cooked at high temperatures. Dr. Mercola says some of the well-known toxins created when heating food include:
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) – Fat that drips onto the heat source (such as when you’re cooking meat), produces excess smoke that surrounds your food. This transfers cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.
- Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) – AGEs you ingest from food builds up in your body over time, leading to oxidative stress and inflammation, which are risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.
- Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) – Just like acrylamide, these are also carcinogenic. They usually appear on the blackened sections of your meat, which is why you should avoid charring your meat.
What’s The Best Way to Avoid These Toxic Hazards?
Potato chip and junk food manufacturers are continuously searching for ways to improve their products. One example is Pepsi Frito-Lay’s attempt to reformulate their products with all natural ingredients. Although it is less toxic, it is still not healthful.
Dr. Mercola says the best way to avoid toxins like acrylamide is to consume raw or minimally processed foods. Consuming fresh, whole foods is the secret to being optimally healthy, managing you weight, and really enjoying your meals. Opt for organic and/or locally-grown vegetables, raw dairy, organic grass-fed meats, healthy oils, nuts, and seeds.
For more healthy eating tips, check out Dr. Mercola’s nutritional plan.