What Is Acrylamide ?

French fries with lettuce on a white plate, on a plaid tablecloth.. One of the foods associated with acrylamide formation.
French fries with salad. Copyright: elnur / 123RF Stock Photo

Acrylamide is one of the nastiest chemicals to be found in food. For a start it is odourless and forms a colourless crystalline monomer but with significant reactivity with a range of other compounds as well as itself.

It is so poisonous, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified AA as a probable carcinogen in humans, in 1994 (Markovic et al., 2018).

Industrially, it is extremely important because it is a raw material for many processes including the manufacture of polymers such as polyacrylamide for clothing and for managing wastewater treatment. It is also needed for cosmetics production and in various types of dye and pigment manufacture (Abdel-Daim et al., 2015; Acaroz et al., 2018).


Acrylamide is often found in food especially fried foods. It has been detected in french fries, biscuits, breakfast cereals, crackers, crisps, bread and toast and in roasted coffee (Zhang et al., 2012; Loaec et al., 2014; Markovic et al., 2018). 

How Is Acrylamide Produced?

Acrylamide is produced by the Maillard reaction which occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars but with the amino acid, asparagine in particular. carbohydrate-rich foods are particularly susceptible especially when they are cooked at high temperatures as in frying (Zhang et al., 2012).


It is highly water soluble and of low molecular weight. It is also easily absorbed in the agstrointestinal tract and widely distributed throughout the body (Yildizbayrak & erkan, 2018).

Toxicity Of Acrylamide

Acrylamide has diverse, well‐known toxic effects, including neurotoxicity, genotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, and immunotoxicity in cell lines and animal models (Zhang et al., 2012; Fang et al., 2014; Liu et al., 2015; Zamani et al., 2017).

Toxicity due to acrylamide is associated with oxidative stress (Oliveira et al., 2009; Pan et al., 2018).


Abdel‐Daim, M. M.Abd Eldaim, M. A., & Hassan, A. G. A. (2015). Trigonella foenum‐graecum ameliorates acrylamide‐induced toxicity in rats: Roles of oxidative stress, proinflammatory cytokines, and DNA damageBiochemistry and Cell Biology93(3), pp. 192198. (Article

Acaroz, U.Ince, S.Arslan‐Acaroz, D.Gurler, Z.Kucukkurt, I.Demirel, H. H., … Zhu, K. (2018). The ameliorative effects of boron against acrylamide‐induced oxidative stress, inflammatory response, and metabolic changes in ratsFood and Chemical Toxicology118, pp. 745752. (Article)  

Fang, J.Liang Chun, L.Jia Xu, D., & Li, N. (2014). Immunotoxicity of acrylamide in female BALB/c miceBiomedical and Environmental Sciences27(6), pp. 401409. (Article)

Liu, Z.Song, G.Zou, C.Liu, G.Wu, W.Yuan, T., & Liu, X. (2015). Acrylamide induces mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis in BV‐2 microglial cellsFree Radical Biology and Medicine84, pp. 4253. (Article)  

Loaec, G.Jacolot, P.Helou, C.Niquet‐Leridon, C., & Tessier, F. J. (2014). Acrylamide, 5‐hydroxymethylfurfural and N‐epsilon‐carboxymethyl‐lysine in coffee substitutes and instant coffeesFood Additives and Contaminants Part A‐Chemistry Analysis Control Exposure & Risk Assessment31(4), pp. 593604. (Article

Markovic, J.Stosic, M.Kojic, D., & Matavulj, M. (2018). Effects of acrylamide on oxidant/antioxidant parameters and CYP2E1 expression in rat pancreatic endocrine cellsActa Histochemica120(2), pp. 7383. (Article)

Oliveira, N. G., Pingarilho, M., Martins, C., Fernandes, A. S., Vaz, S., Martins, V., … Gaspar, J. F. (2009). Cytotoxicity and chromosomal aberrations induced by acrylamide in V79 cells: Role of glutathione modulators. Mutation Research‐Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, 676(1–2), pp. 87–92. (Article).

Pan, X.Wu, X.Yan, D.Peng, C.Rao, C., & Yan, H. (2018). Acrylamide‐induced oxidative stress and inflammatory response are alleviated by N‐acetylcysteine in PC12 cells: Involvement of the crosstalk between Nrf2 and NF‐kappa B pathways regulated by MAPKsToxicology Letters288, pp. 5564. (Article)  

Yildizbayrak, N., & Erkan, M. (2018). Acrylamide disrupts the steroidogenic pathway in Leydig cells: Possible mechanism of actionToxicological and Environmental Chemistry100(2), pp. 235246. (Article

Zamani, E.Shaki, F.AbedianKenari, S., & Shokrzadeh, M. (2017). Acrylamide induces immunotoxicity through reactive oxygen species production and caspase‐dependent apoptosis in mice splenocytes via the mitochondria‐dependent signaling pathwaysBiomedicine & Pharmacotherapy94, pp. 523530 (Article)

Zamani, E.Shokrzadeh, M.Modanloo, M., & Shaki, F. (2018). In vitro study towards role of acrylamide‐induced genotoxicity in human lymphocytes and the protective effect of L‐carnitineBrazilian Archives of Biology and Technology61. (Article)

Zhang, L.Zhang, H.Miao, Y.Wu, S.Ye, H., & Yuan, Y. (2012). Protective effect of allicin against acrylamide‐induced hepatocyte damage in vitro and in vivo Food and Chemical Toxicology50(9), pp. 33063312 (Article)

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