Delicious food should be something you “die for” not something you die from. 

There are two sources of poison in your food. One is from the food itself. The other is from the way it is prepared. Even organic food can be poisonous if prepared the wrong way. And overcooking food can literally make you sick.

Many foods can be eaten raw, but others require cooking. You can’t have bread, cake, chips, and fried potatoes without cooking. So what’s wrong with overcooking?

It’s easy to forget that cooking is a chemical process.  A recipe book is really a chemical procedure manual. Cooking can breakdown food to make it easier to digest, and it can also creates new chemical compounds that were not in the original food product, depending on the food ingredients, cooking temperature, and time cooked. 

Boiling and steaming food at 212 degrees F does not seem to cause any bad chemicals in the process. But bake, fry, roast, and in any other way heat certain foods above 248 degrees F, and poisons begin to form in carbohydrate products. Normal baking temperatures are much higher than this. And processed foods are often heated to higher temperatures during processing.

All grain products, even healthy whole grains, start to form acrylamide when cooked at normal baking, frying, and toasting temperatures. That’s very bad, since acrylamide is a powerful nerve poison, or neurotoxin. What nutritionists tout as “healthy grains” are poisonous if baked or toasted.

According to the National Institutes of Health, in its publication Acrylamide neurotoxicity:

While many researchers believe that exposure of humans to relatively low levels of acrylamide in the diet will not result in clinical neuropathy, some neurotoxicologists are concerned about the potential for its cumulative neurotoxicity. It has been shown in several studies that the same neurotoxic effects can be observed at low and high doses of acrylamide, with the low doses simply requiring longer exposures.

The Database of Hazardous Material states this about acrylamide: 

Health Hazard

Classified as very toxic…It is a cumulative neurotoxin and repeated exposure to small amounts may cause serious injury to the nervous system. The neurological effects may be delayed. The symptoms of acrylamide toxicity are consistent with mid-brain lesions and blocked transport along both motor and sensory axons. Individuals with nervous system diseases should not be exposed to acrylamide. (EPA, 1998)

This means that bread, breakfast cereal, cake, cookies, crackers, chips, and all the crunchy, toasted stuff most people love to eat, contain acrylamide. And it also is formed by roasting grains, like coffee and grain-based coffee substitutes. Strangely, due to the way they are processed, California-style black olives, both out of the can and especially after they are cooked, like on a pizza, are very high in acrylamide.

Here is a list compiled by the FDA of acrylamide in various foods.

How much nerve poison is safe to have in your food?  It depends on the poison dose and your body’s ability to detoxify from it. 

If you are healthy overall, then you can probably withstand food-borne acrylamide in low levels for many years before it possibly catches up with you in old age. Many older people feel numb and tingly feet and hands, a known effect of acrylamide poisoning. Could a lifetime of acrylamide be a cause, or could it be making the cause worse?

What if you already have a nerve problem? You may have Long-COVID, a growing health crisis associated with neurological problems that stem from a COVID-19 infection. According to the CDC, the neurological symptoms of Long-COVID neuropathy include heart palpitations, difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”), headache, sleep problems, lightheadedness, paresthesias (or pins-and-needles feelings), change in smell or taste, and depression or anxiety. There is now speculation that this neuropathy could also lead to dementia.

If you have these problems, then you may be much more sensitive to acrylamide at low doses in your food. It is known that people with nerve problems should avoid nerve poisons. Everyone really should.

Here are some tips to reduce acrylamide in your food:

  1. Eat foods raw, if possible. If cooking, only boil or steam. 
  2. Avoid drinks from roasted grains, including coffee and coffee-substitutes. Try tea instead.
  3. Make sure you have a balanced diet including fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains that are boiled or steamed only.
  4. If you do choose to eat toast or a baked product, remember that the darker the crust the higher the acrylamide. Removing the crust of bread and eating the soft interior is better.  
  5. Avoid black olives. Green olives are okay.
  6. Tobacco also contains acrylamide, so this is another reason to avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. 
  7. Acrylamide is also in cosmetics and creams, and in anything that has polyacrylamide, which breaks down into acrylamide. So even if you lower your food exposure, you need to look at acrylamide sources in other products in your life. It’s in more products than you think.

For a more detailed discussion, see Cooked to Death: How the Acrylamide in Food Causes Nerve Damage and Long COVID.

About the Author: Sydney Ross Singer is a medical anthropologist, author, and director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease.  He is a pioneer of applied medical anthropology, focusing on the cultural causes of disease.

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