Cancer Group: Go Easy on the Fried Chanukah Treats

Israeli special forces soldiers stand guard near the Gush Etzion junction, where local residents provided them with sufganiyot.
(Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Just in case there was any doubt, the Israel Cancer Association has issued a warning – and a position paper – recommending that Israelis limit their consumption of Chanukah favorites, like sufganiyot (doughnuts) and latkes. Both are deep-fried in oil, and that makes both caloric and coronary disasters, the Association said. If one must eat these carbohydrate-laden treats, better to have baked versions over fried – and if frying cannot be dispensed with, the temperature of the oil should be moderate, as opposed to high.

An important consideration when frying, said the Association, is to avoid cooking the items until they darken. That’s a sign that acrylamide has formed. According to health officials, acrylamide, a chemical compound that forms, among other instances, when foods are fried at high temperatures, is toxic, and exposure to the chemical over time can cause cancer.

While scientific studies have yet to confirm a definitive connection between acrylamide and cancer in humans, the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens considers acrylamide to be reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, based on studies in laboratory animals given acrylamide in drinking water.

Regardless of definitive scientific evidence, the Association said, it pays to err on the side of safety; the fat and calories in deep-fried Chanukah treats should be enough to give one caution before consuming. Preferring baked over fried, or at least frying at lower temperatures, would be a positive step towards ensuring better health and avoid risks, the group added.