"This study could be regarded as a pioneer contribution on the reduction of acrylamide in various foods by natural antioxidants," wrote lead author Yu Zhang in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Acrylamide is a 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.
Since the Swedish discovery a global effort has been underway to amass data about this chemical. More than 200 research projects have been initiated around the world, and their findings co-ordinated by national governments, the EU and the United Nations.
The researchers, from Zhejiang Universitys Department of Food Science and Nutrition, report that by immersing the potato crisps and French fries in bamboo leaf extract so that the extract penetrated into the potato matrix prior to the frying process, could reduce the formation of this cancer-causing compound.
The extract, with the main components characterised as flavonoids, lactones and phenolic acids, is listed as a food ingredient in China, and permitted as an additive in a range of food products, including fish and meat products, edible oils, and puffed food.
"Our results showed that nearly 74.1 per cent and 76.1 per cent of acrylamide in potato crisps and French fries was reduced when the AOB addition ratio was 0.1 per cent and 0.01 per cent (w/w), respectively," said Zhang.
The researchers also investigated if the bamboo leaf extract affected the sensory properties of the resultant potato products by recruiting 30 untrained volunteers to taste the products in a double blind manner. They report that the crispness and flavour of both with the bamboo extract were not significantly different to normal potato matrixes when the bamboo lead extract addition ratio was less than 0.5 per cent.
The study, funded by the National Natural Science Foundation Council of China, concluded: "This study could be regarded as a pioneer finding of an effective, simple, and practical way to reduce acrylamide formation in potato-based foods by natural antioxidants."
The researchers called for additional research to elucidate the mechanism by which the extract inhibits acrylamide formation, and whether any new intermediates are formed during the Maillard reaction. The effect of the extract on acrylamide inhibition in other fried or baked foods also warrants additional study, they said.
Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Published on-line ahead of print; ASAP article, doi: 10.1021/jf062568i "Addition of Antioxidant of Bamboo Leaves (AOB) Effectively Reduces Acrylamide Formation in Potato Crisps and French Fries" Authors: Y. Zhang, J. Chen, X. Zhang, X. Wu, and Y. Zhang