Acrylamide is a chemical found in the environment and used by industry. It is formed in foods during the heating of carbohydrates, in tobacco smoke and in factory-made products. It appears to be present in the bodies of Americans throughout their lives. Little is known about the health risks from acrylamide and it’s product of metabolism, glycidamide. Acrylamide may be neurotoxic in humans, is carcinogenic in animals and may be carcinogenic in humans. Because of the potential risks of acrylamide, more studies are needed on the toxic effects.
Information about the presence of acrylamide in the human body in different groups of people is also needed. A test for the presence of acrylamide and glycidamide (the product of acrylamide metabolism in the body which may be responsible for toxicity) is to assay for “hemoglobin adducts”, HbAA and HbGA respectively. These markers on red blood cells indicate previous exposure to acrylamide for 120 days, the average life of red blood cells.
HbAA and HbGA were tested in 7,166 people from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results were classified according to sex, age, race/ethnicity, smoking status. Testing was also done of cotitine for an accurate measure of smoking levels, either first hand-smoke or second-hand smoke. HbAA ranged from 3 to 910 pmol/g hemoglobin, and the HbGA ranged from 4 to 756 pmol/g hemoglobin. The differences in populations were only modestly strong. There were strong individual differences within the populations. HbAA and HbGA were detected in 99.9 and 97.5% of the subjects, respectively.
Smokers had the highest levels. People exposed to second-hand smoke showed some effect. Children aged 3-11 had higher levels than people over 60 years of age, perhaps because children eat more food per body weight than adults do. Hispanic Americans had the highest levels of all. The lowest levels of HbGA were in non-Hispanic African Americans. There was as much variation in general within the groups as between the groups, and an increase in the level of cotitine correlated with increased HbAA and HbGA.
CONCLUSION: The presence of HbAA or HbGA is widespread in humans and indicates previous exposure to acrylamide, a known carcinogen. Gender, age and race/ethnicity are not good predictors of actual levels, but smoking and age are better predictors.
NOTE: Acrylamides are found when high-carbohydrate foods, such as potatoes, rice and grains, are fried or baked, but not when they are boiled.
Glutathione helps detoxify the acrylamides from the body.