Does Burned Toast Cause Cancer? Maybe.


Burn That Toast?

Practically every week our fire alarm goes off because of someone burning their toast. Sierra View Homes Retirement’s independent senior apartments are equipped with super sensitive smoke alarms. So we know there are some individuals that like that dark, tasty bread! Most of us have burnt toast or other foods at one time or another. Indeed, some like to eat foods that are nearly charred. But, did you know that burning your toast may increase your health risk? Researchers are looking at people who eat a lot of burned toast to see if they have increased cancer risk.

We have been warned, for years, about burning certain foods because when they are cooked at a high temperature they form compounds that can cause cancer. Starchy foods, especially potatoes, can produce high levels of the compound acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures for too long. Laboratory mice studies have shown high levels of acrylamide created a higher risk of cancer.

Acrylamide is what makes bread and potatoes turn a golden color when they are fried, baked, toasted or roasted. Cooking food until it turns yellow restricts the formation of acrylamide. The problem with this is that cooking at lower temperature may cause bad bacteria to thrive and thus there is an increased risk of food poisoning. Researchers are encouraging people to reduce the risk by following a normal healthy diet and generally limiting the foods that are major sources of acrylamide.

The Food Standards Agency of the UK has launched a campaign to warn about cancer risk of eating burnt toast, over-roasted potatoes and other starchy food cooked at high temperatures even though the risk of caner has not been proven in humans.

There has been no study of people who eat burnt toast to see if they have higher cancer rates. But there are chemicals in burnt toast that have been liked with cancers in both animals and humans. Burnt toast contains less acrylamide than potato chips and fries but it still has enough acrylamide to be of concern because we are likely to eat bread more often.

Since the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization are calling for a reduction of acrylamide levels in food, the food industry is exploring ways to cook foods using lower temperatures and using enzymes to reduce acrylamide levels. They are working hard to do this without losing desirability and taste. Many people I’ve talked to here at Sierra View want that golden brown for the taste– “Give me that warm dark toasted bread with butter and jam!”

Seniors love their toast. We suggest caution when dealing with toast. Toast your bread to the lowest level acceptable to you, or try toasting dark bread instead of white bread. You can decrease the amount of acrylamide you take in if you cut off the crust. If for some reason you do burn the toast, throw it away. Don’t try to salvage it even though it might look tempting or feel wasteful.