Could your love for a nice, juicy grilled steak or hamburger be putting you at risk? According to researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY, those relaxed summer barbecues that we Americans so enjoy could actually be a recipe for disease and faster aging, significantly increasing our risk for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart disease.
According to these researchers, heat-processed meats, such as those which have been grilled or broiled, contain high amounts of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). AGEs are produced when protein or fat reacts with sugars. They are normally found in the human body in small amounts; however, eating meats cooked with high heat causes them to be present in greater amounts.
In addition to cooked meats, the study also found that fatty and sugary foods like cheese, eggs, white bread, pasta, pastries, cakes and biscuits might also play a role in raising the amount of AGEs in a person’s body.
To conduct their study, the researchers took mice and feed them various levels of AGEs. Those mice that were given a diet consistent with a typical Western diet with high levels of AGEs experienced a decline in their cognitive abilities, indicating that a diet high in AGEs might possibly be associated with the same condition in humans. In addition, AGEs were found to suppress SIRT1 in the brain and blood tissue of the mice. SIRT1 is a substance which regulates nerve cell, immune and endocrine function. Suppressed SIRT1 has been associated with metabolic diseases like diabetes as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
To follow up on these findings, they then examined blood sample data from humans. Altogether, data from 93 individuals over the age of 60 were included in the study. After nine months of monitoring, they found that those people with high AGE levels had a greater decrease in their cognitive abilities as well as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become unable to respond to insulin properly. If untreated, it can lead to type 2 diabetes. It is also associated with an higher risk for developing heart disease. Those with low AGE levels did not experience these problems.
The researchers suggest that preventing Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes may be a matter of people avoiding foods high in AGEs. But, they note, it’s not just what people eat; it’s also how they prepare it. Using lower heat and more water in cooking will help keep AGE levels in check. So, rather than grilling or frying meats, people may want to opt for other cooking methods such as boiling, poaching or stewing, they say.
The further suggest that getting regular exercise, keeping blood pressure under control, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking can also help keep a person’s risk for disease low.
The full study dealing with the effect of grilled meat in increasing Alzheimer’s disease risk was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
By Nancy Schimelpfening