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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

"It’s just, dumb, dumb, dumb," Dr. Stephen Safe, a professor of toxicology at Texas A&M University, told NYTimes.com. "There are carcinogens in everything you eat. Maybe they’ll just ban food."

A Carb/Cancer Connection?

Carbs cause cancer! Must be a joke, huh? Apparently not. Carbohydrate-rich foods have been vilified to the extent that people seem willing to believe that they cause the big "C." Why not? Carbs are blamed for just about everything these days.

Several people have emailed recently calling my attention to a report out of Sweden that acrylamide, a substance found to cause cancer in animals, has been found in French fries, potato chips and other foods subjected to high heat through frying, deep-frying or baking. One man asked if it was time to start worrying about Ezekiel bread (my favorite). Another was hesitating to schedule a telephone consultation, because of the report which, he said, linked "a high carbohydrate diet to cancer, especially since this is the kind of diet you advocate." (Emphasis mine) The second person sent me a series of articles on the surprising report, two from Stockholm, one from Geneva and another from Rome.

According to the articles, research carried out by scientists at Stockholm University in cooperation with experts at Sweden’s National Food Administration showed that an ordinary bag of potato chips contained 500 times more acrylamide than is considered safe. French fries contain about 100 times, the study showed. Lesser amounts were found in some packaged cereals. In all, 100 different samples of foods subjected to high heat were analyzed, including tortilla chips.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies acrylamide (a colorless, crystalline solid) as a medium hazard probable human carcinogen. In animal tests, acrylamide caused benign and malignant stomach tumors, but there is little information about its effect on humans.

According to Swedish television, the researchers spoke of "enormous global consequences for food production and consumption." They deemed their findings sufficiently important to go public before the research had been subject to peer review and published in an academic journal. Swedish supermarket chains were said to be holding a "crisis meeting."

Swedish authorities, however, did not find the research sufficiently compelling to order products withdrawn from the market. Leif Busk, head of the Swedish National Food Administration’s research department, said the random samples were not extensive enough to recommend withdrawal.

Busk emphasized that the raw food materials used in the analyzes showed no traces of acrylamide. Heating the foods in a certain way appears to be the problem. "Frying at high temperatures or for a long time should be avoided," Busk advised. "Our advice to eat less fat-rich products such as French fries and crisps, remains valid."

The World Health Organization, according to one of the articles, said the Swedish finding did not change basic dietary advice to eat less fat and more fruit and vegetables.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA) of the United Nations, according to another article, said Swedish authorities need to explain how and why acrylamide is formed when these foods are fried or baked.

Manfred Luetzow, FAO’s food chemicals expert, said in a statement that their "general recommendations for a well-balanced and diverse diet prepared in ways that preserve nutrient content should not need to be changed as a result of the findings."

In other words, there’s no need to panic or stop eating carbohydrates. Stick to whole or minimally processed foods. Where reasonable, eat foods in their "as grown" form. That’s what I’ve always recommended in my books.

My favorite bread, Ezekiel 4:9 by Food for Life, is wonderful, chewy and wholesome; there’s no reason to avoid it. According to Food for Life, it’s "made from freshly sprouted live grains and contains absolutely no flour." What’s more, they add, "Our exclusive baking process preserves these valuable nutrients and retains the important natural fiber and bran." In my opinion, it’s one of the best breads available.

The Bottom-line

Don’t jump to conclusions. Wait until you have all the facts, and then decide.

As I told the man interested in the telephone consultation, based on the facts now available: "The problem is not the carbs, but the processing."

There’s no reason to believe that carbohydrates themselves cause cancer.

Fruit, vegetables and whole grains are carbohydrates – and just about everyone agrees that they are good for you. It’s no secret that fatty foods such as French fries and potato chips are fattening -- probably artery-clogging as well – and should be eaten rarely, if at all. Sugar-and-fat ladened, baked pastries should be reserved for special occasions.

As Christine Gorman wrote in Time magazine (Your Health, May 6, 2002): "The evidence is thin [that heavily-heated starches increase the risk of cancer]...There’s no scientific paper to read, no clinical-trial results to analyze, just a press release and some figures on an Internet site...But there are plenty of other reasons you should go easy on the fries."

Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone (505) 266-5858, e-mail: cncbass@aol.com, FAX: (505) 266-9123.  Office Hours, 8-5, M-F, Mountain time.

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