AskDefine | Define acrylamide

Dictionary Definition

acrylamide n : a white crystalline amide of propenoic acid can damage the nervous system and is carcinogenic in laboratory animals; "they claimed that acrylamide is produced when certain carbohydrates are baked or fried at high temperatures"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The amide of acrylic acid, CH2=CH.CONH2; used in the manufacture of polyacrylamides.

Extensive Definition

The chemical compound acrylamide (acrylic amide) has the chemical formula C3H5NO. Its IUPAC name is 2-propenamide. It is a white odourless crystalline solid, soluble in water, ethanol, ether and chloroform. Acrylamide is incompatible with acids, bases, oxidizing agents, iron and iron salts. It decomposes non-thermally to form ammonia and thermal decomposition produces carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.
Most acrylamide is used to synthesize polyacrylamides which find many uses as water-soluble thickeners. These include use in wastewater treatment, gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), papermaking, ore processing, and the manufacture of permanent press fabrics. Some acrylamide is used in the manufacture of dyes and the manufacture of other monomers.
Acrylamide was accidentally discovered in foods in April 2002 by scientists in Sweden when they found large amounts of the chemical in starchy foods, such as potato chips, French fries and bread that had been heated (production of acrylamide in the heating process was shown to be temperature-dependent). It was not found in food which had been boiled nor in foods that were not heated.. Unfortunately, the Davis publication is no longer available online, although references to it can be found in numerous successive papers. The technique is widely accepted today, and is still an extremely common protocol in molecular biology labs.
Acrylamide also has many other uses in the modern molecular biology laboratory, including the use of linear polyacrylamide (LPA) as a carrier which aids in the precipitation of small amounts of DNA. Many laboratory supply companies sell LPA as a commercial product for just this use.

Occurrence in daily lifestyle

Acrylamide in fried or baked goods is produced by the reaction between asparagine and reducing sugars (fructose, glucose, etc.) or reactive carbonyls at temperatures above 120oC. Acrylamide in olives and prune juice comes through another process. It has been suggested that environmental pathways, such as the breakdown of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), are sources too. Smoking is also a major acrylamide producer. Estimates for the proportion in the diet coming from the consumption of coffee range from twenty to forty percent. Acrylamide cannot be created by boiling, and very few uncooked foods contain any detectable amounts. Browning during baking, frying or deep-frying will produce acrylamide and over-cooking of foods will produce large amounts of acrylamide. Acrylamides can also be created during microwaving.
The FDA has analyzed a variety of U.S. food products for levels of acrylamide since 2002, these results can be found here.

Reduction of acrylamide formation


In the case of potatoes for instance the storage temperature should not drop below 8°C. When the temperature is as low as 4°C the fructose content rises sharply, so that the acrylamide formation during baking or deep-frying will be higher.

Raw Material

New varieties of potatoes are being bred that produce less or no acrylamide.

Production methods

In many cases it is advisable to lower the maximum temperature during baking. Also new production methods such as vacuum frying may lower the acrylamide formation. When silicone is used as a foam inhibitor in deep-frying fats in the food industry the acrylamide content is doubled.

Recipe formulation

Asparaginase, a naturally-occurring enzyme, can be added to bread or potato mixtures to reduce formation of acrylamide during cooking.

Potential health risk

There is evidence that exposure to large doses can cause damage to the male reproductive glands. Direct exposure to pure acrylamide by inhalation, skin absorption, or eye contact irritates the exposed mucous membranes, e.g. the nose, and can also cause sweating, urinary incontinence, nausea, myalgia, speech disorders, numbness, paresthesia, and weakened legs and hands. In addition, the acrylamide monomer is a potent neurotoxin, causing the disassembly or rearrangement of intermediate filaments. Ingested acrylamide is metabolised to a chemically reactive epoxide, glycidamide.


Acrylamide reliably produces various types of cancer in experimental mice and rats. However, studies in human populations have failed to produce consistent results, and it remains unclear whether this is due to a reduced risk in a natural setting or the methodological difficulties inherent in such studies. For example, it might be difficult to isolate the effects of acrylamide because it is so ubiquitous in Western diets. A Dutch study on 62000 women over an 11 year period has recently concluded that those who ingest more acrylamide in their regular diet are twice as likely to develop endometrial or ovarian cancer.

Public awareness

On April 24 2002, the Swedish National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket) announced that acrylamide can be found in baked and fried starchy foods, such as potato chips, breads and cookies. Concern was raised mainly because of the carcinogenic effects of acrylamide. This was followed by a strong but short-lived interest from the press. On 2005-08-26, California attorney general Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit against top makers of french fries and potato chips to warn consumers of the potential risk from consuming acrylamide.

See also


External links

acrylamide in Arabic: اكريلاميد
acrylamide in Danish: Akrylamid
acrylamide in German: Acrylamid
acrylamide in Spanish: Acrilamida
acrylamide in French: Acrylamide
acrylamide in Italian: Acrilammide
acrylamide in Dutch: Acrylamide
acrylamide in Japanese: アクリルアミド
acrylamide in Norwegian: Akrylamid
acrylamide in Polish: Akrylamid
acrylamide in Portuguese: Acrilamida
acrylamide in Swedish: Akrylamid
acrylamide in Thai: อะคริลาไมด์
acrylamide in Chinese: 丙烯酰胺
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