Acrylamide is a carcinogenic and neurotoxic substance that develops when foods rich in carbohydrates are cooked at high temperatures. Based on the research we are talking about today published by a Polish team in the journal Molecules (Kopanska et al, Molecules, 2022), it emerged that acrylamide also increases the levels of inflammation in the body and weakens the immune system. However, what emerges from the study is that we have a powerful ally on our side, vitamin E, whose intake limits the damage of acrylamide. Let's try to deepen this very important topic.
What is acrylamide
Acrylamide is a substance harmful to our health that develops when foods rich in carbohydrates, especially starches, such as chips, bread, biscuits, cakes and coffee, are subjected to cooking processes such as frying, roasting or baking. To better understand the action of acrylamide and any defense weapons against this substance, the researchers of the study we are talking about today developed an experiment conducted in the laboratory.
The harmful effects of acrylamide on inflammation and the immune system
What emerged is that acrylamide increases the release of free radicals, which in turn increase the level of inflammation. Chronic inflammation, in the long term, is harmful as it can increase the risk of obesity, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, poor immune system, neurodegeneration and cancer. Not only that, the study was able to observe that acrylamide damages the cholinergic system, which is the part of the nervous system whose action is regulated by acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. In fact, the scientists observed that, following the administration of acrylamide, the values of acetylcholinesterase are reduced. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that modulates the action of acetylcholine. To understand what has been observed, it should be pointed out that the presence of acetylcholinesterase is characteristic of the synapses of some types of neurons responsible for functions concerning memory, stress management and the emotional sphere. Not only that, this enzyme influences the action of muscle fibers. In addition, acetylcholinesterase acts at the level of the immune system by regulating its response through the regulation of acetylcholine, which is necessary for the T cells of the immune system to migrate to the site of infection.
Therefore, acrylamide, by reducing acetylcholinesterase, has an impact on all these biological processes. And that's not all. In fact, it was also possible to observe that acrylamide reduces the presence of glutathione, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body, with an important role also in the response against viral infections.
The beneficial action of vitamin E
But the researchers' work did not stop at evaluating the harmful effects of acrylamide on the body. The research was able to observe that the intake of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, allowed to counteract, at least in part, the damage that acrylamide can cause. In particular, vitamin E reduces the impact of acrylamide on acetylcholinesterase levels. Vitamin E also plays a protective role against glutathione, however in this case the beneficial effect of vitamin E is less noticeable. Vitamin E is found in some vegetable oils, especially sunflower oil, wheat germ and extra virgin olive oil, in dried fruit, such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts, in some fruits and vegetables such as avocado, kiwi and broccoli.