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[Opinion] Carcinogenic Substances

Posted December. 12, 2002 22:32,   


We used to eat steamed potatoes a lot. Steam a couple of potatoes with some water and eat them with some salt. They not only taste good but also are considered perfect food in terms of nutrition. Vitamin C that is rich in potatoes slows growth of cancer cells and prevents production of cancer-cause substances. It is even said that `potatoes is a way to longevity.` But things change when it comes to frying them. Some researchers say that they found a carcinogenic substance in potato chips and fried potatoes.

▷It’s not about potatoes. Whenever scientists come with a new finding, the number of cancer-causing substances and food to avoid increases. There was a study showing baked salt and bamboo salt contain cancer-causing dioxine, and another one found that olive oil is potentially carcinogenic. The health authorities in the U.S. recently updated the list of carcinogenic substances by adding 15 new ones including ultraviolet ray believed to cause skin cancer. If we strictly follow the extensive guidelines, there may be no food left to eat.

▷The one found in potato chips is a crystal substance called `acrylamid.` Animal studies found that it was carcinogenic, but it is not certain yet whether it also causes cancer in human body. Scientists say the culprit is the little over-baked crunchy brown part of bread or biscuits. The substance was also found in biscuits, dried bread and cereals, they say. Then there will be little left for children to eat. It must be relieving for little children that they are not labeled as dangerous food, with the results of clinical studies yet to come.

▷It’s not good not to take care of our health. Still, it is not a healthy life style, either, to get obsessed with health. Hypochondriasis, a symptom that you believe you has an serious illness although you are just fine, is indeed an incurable disease. Acrylamid does not cause harm to human body directly, but looks certain to increase the number of hypochondriasis patients. Most of us have been eating the substance throughout our lives. But worrying will not lead us to a solution. Fortunately, scientists say that it is okay to steam and broil potatoes just as we used to. And by baking and frying them under 120C, we can avoid producing the cancer-causing substance. More studies have yet to come, and in the meantime we had better get rid of those identified carcinogens such as smoking and air pollutions rather than worrying about the possibility.

Park Young-kyun, Editorial Writer, parkyk@donga.com