Frying and microwaving food may put individuals at risk of ingesting greater numbers of furans, a compound that has been linked to cancer in animal studies, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, the scientists report they found three times as many furans in their fish fingers when they fried them in olive oil and two times as many using sunflower oil compared to when they baked them in the oven.

Compounding this, they reported, is the fact that reheating the greasy snack in the microwave once again increased the number of furans, this time adding 8.15 micrograms of furans per gram, compared to the original 10 added by the oven or 30 gained when fried in olive oil.

Based on their findings, the researchers deduced that the number of furans was lower when the temperature and frying time was shorter. The group also found that their numbers decreased the more time elapsed after cooking.

"Therefore," author Maria Trinidad Perez-Palacios of the University of Extramadura said, "formation of furanic compounds can be reduced by adjusting the conditions of cooking and post-cooking, for example by using the oven instead of the deep fryer, lowering the frying time and temperature -- 4 minutes at 160 ºC is sufficient -- or leaving a suitable amount of time (10 minutes) between cooking the product and eating it."

Unfortunately, the researchers also found that as these volatile compounds reduced, so did the aroma and flavor of the food.

"Furans enhance the organoleptic characteristics of food, but as there is scientific evidence of their potential toxicity and carcinogenicity, new research is channeled towards reducing the formation of these compounds without impairing our sensory enjoyment of what we are eating," Perez-Palacios she said.

While no legislation exists guiding the number of furans contained in food, Perez-Palacios and her colleagues believe it's important for consumers to read labels on ready-to-cook food products as they often recommend baking as the method of preparation.

"As such, manufacturers should also make progress, for example by putting information on packaging relating to the possibility of oven-cooking the product or even recommending it as the sole method of preparation," the researcher concluded.