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Acetaldehyde in Food - What should I avoid?

Acetaldehyde in food

For those with an ALDH2 deficiency, metabolising acetaldehyde can be a real nightmare. Many people with this ineffective liver enzyme know that acetaldehyde from alcohol will give them painful and uncomfortable symptoms, but did you know that acetaldehyde is found in food as well?

If acetaldehyde is a problem for you with alcohol, it may also help to avoid acetaldehyde in food, too. 

Acetaldehyde in food

There are actually plenty of foods and beverages that have various amounts of acetaldehyde and increase the risk of giving you negative symptoms. Consuming high amounts of food with increased levels of acetaldehyde can also contribute to higher risk of cancers in the digestive tract.

Foods high in acetaldehyde

Fermented foods - Acetaldehyde is created by microorganisms during the fermentation process so it can be found in fermented foods, such as:

    • Vinegar
    • Yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Sour cream
    • Fish products
    • Soy products
    • Pickled or canned vegetables
    Fruit - Acetaldehyde can be found naturally in some fruits, such as:
      • Melon (including watermelon and Oriental melon)
      • Pineapple
      • Orange
      • White peach
      • Nectarine
      • Very ripe fruits
      Additives & Flavour - Some food and drink items have added acetaldehyde as “food flavouring.” Some of these items include:
          • Pastries
          • Juices
          • Soft drinks
          • Dairy products
          • Desserts

          Want to learn more about this toxic chemical? Make sure to read our article: Expert's Guide To Breaking Down Acetaldehyde

          acetaldehyde in food and drink study

          Acetaldehyde exposure estimation due to the food groups analysed in this study.

          Drinks high in acetaldehyde

          Alcohol - Acetaldehyde in alcoholic beverages gives those with an ALDH2 deficiency the worst symptoms and it’s often from alcohol that users realise they have a deficiency.

          Because there is a much higher level of acetaldehyde in something like white wine compared to yogurt, alcohol will produce the bigger reaction. It also means that if you have numerous alcoholic drinks in one night, your body will become overwhelmed with acetaldehyde. You would need to eat a lot of yogurt to get a similar reaction.

          Some alcoholic beverages with acetaldehyde in high amounts include:

              • Wine (sparkling, white and red wine)
              • Whisky
              • Makgeolli (Korean rice wine)
              • Beer
              Non-alcoholic drinks - Drinks without alcohol can still be sources of acetaldehyde. Some drinks even have this chemical added for additional flavour. Some non-alcoholic drinks that have acetaldehyde include:
                  • Coffee (both ground and instant have varying levels of acetaldehyde)
                  • Early Gray tea
                  • Orange pop and other soft drinks
                  • Fruit juice such as apple juice

                  Drinks and food with acetaldehyde

                  ALDH2 Deficiency Diet

                  If you have an ALDH2 deficiency, you can speak to your doctor about certain foods and drinks you should cut from your diet and what you should simply reduce. 

                  We do know that continued exposure to high acetaldehyde concentrations can not only lead to alcohol flush reaction (or Asian Flush) but also increased risks of cancer. It is classed as a Group 1 carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) for a reason.

                  Foods with higher levels of toxic acetaldehyde can cause increased cancer risks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be cut from your diet completely. Simply eating these foods in moderation can help! Watching your exposure to acetaldehyde, especially with alcohol, can help reduce your symptoms and acetaldehyde accumulation in the body.

                  Not sure if you have this condition? Have a look at our article: Should I Get Tested for ALDH2 Deficiency?

                  However, it's impossible to completely avoid acetaldehyde in our everyday lives. This chemical is commonly found in air pollution, cigarette smoke, food, drinks and even naturally in our bodies. Buy by being better informed about acetaldehyde, we can limit our exposure.

                  Jordana Lee profile picture

                  Published on Oct 15, 2019 in category by - Asian flush consultant @ SRQ Labs