Most of us aren’t going to eat charcoal chicken when it’s burnt to a crisp in the oven, or blackened casserole with crispy burned noodles. But, some people love a little char on their hot dogs or the “burnt” taste of an overly-toasted marshmallow.
Unfortunately, burning certain foods—especially toast—might be worse for your body than you realize.
When some foods like grains and starches are heated up, a chemical forms called acrylamide. The hotter the food gets, the higher the presence of acrylamide. So, burnt toast might not be the best way to start your day.
What’s the problem with acrylamide? There need to be more studies when it comes to how it impacts humans, research has shown that it’s been linked to cancer in laboratory mice. Humans would likely need a much higher dosage of the chemical to be affected in such a way, but the FDA is actively researching its effects.
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Other foods, including burnt meats (yes, the ones fresh off the grill) have been linked to an increased risk of ovarian and kidney cancer thanks to the same chemical. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has labeled acrylamide as a “probably human carcinogen.”
So, is burnt food dangerous?
At this point, that’s a bit difficult to ascertain because studies have looked at huge amounts of the chemical given to mice. Human exposure would likely need to be astronomical to have cancer-causing effects. Plus, it’s widely found in a variety of foods already, and eliminating it from the diet completely would be difficult.
Ultimately, should you be eating burned toast every day? Maybe not, but if you enjoy a charred steak or an overdone marshmallow on your smores, you’re probably just fine until the FDA says otherwise.