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Food chemistry

Acrylamide is formed in the Maillard reaction


Reports of the presence of acrylamide in a range of fried and oven-cooked foods1,2 have caused worldwide concern because this compound has been classified as probably carcinogenic in humans3. Here we show how acrylamide can be generated from food components during heat treatment as a result of the Maillard reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars. We find that asparagine, a major amino acid in potatoes and cereals, is a crucial participant in the production of acrylamide by this pathway.

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Figure 1: Proposed pathways for the formation of acrylamide after Strecker degradation of the amino acids asparagine and methionine in the presence of dicarbonyl products from the Maillard reaction.
Figure 2: Temperature-dependent formation of acrylamide (mg per mol of amino acid) from asparagine (0.1 mmol) and glucose (0.1 mmol) in 0.5 M phosphate buffer (100 µl, pH 5.5) heated in a sealed glass tube for 20 min.


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Correspondence to Donald S. Mottram.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Mottram, D., Wedzicha, B. & Dodson, A. Acrylamide is formed in the Maillard reaction. Nature 419, 448–449 (2002).

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