It’s no secret that diet plays a crucial role in the development of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. But, did you know that you could effect the onset of Alzheimer’s by the way you prepare your meat? A recent study shows that a certain natural chemical found in fried and barbecued foods may increase the risk of dementia.
New research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that chemicals called “advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs)” can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. AGEs are a natural chemical found in our bodies and in some cooked foods. Previous research has determined that a high amount of AGEs can increase one’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, and dementias.
In the most recent study, researchers looked specifically at AGEs coming from one’s diet and how they can play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s by building beta amyloid proteins in the brain. To do this, researchers fed mice three different kinds of diets: a diet low in AGEs, a normal diet, and a diet high in AGEs. They then analyzed their brains and behaviors, and found that mice that were fed a diet low in AGEs actually showed improved motor and cognitive function and had a lower production of amyloid proteins.
Then, researchers observed the diets of 90 healthy adults over the age of 60. Those with high AGE levels showed cognitive decline over the nine month study. Dr. Helen Vlassara, professor of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine noted that,
“Only those who had very high levels of AGEs in their serum, which turns out to be those individuals that consumed very AGE-rich diets, developed the cognitive changes, and along with that developed the suppression of the host defenses.”
It is important to note that all foods contain some level of AGEs, but the chemical is higher in meats. Because the production of AGEs is sped up by heat, cooking food a particularly way can significantly increase the amount of the chemical present in any food. This means that foods cooked on high heat or barbecued, like steak and burgers, have a higher amount of AGEs when compared with raw foods, such as vegetables, fruits, or whole grains.
While research is not conclusive enough to suggest any permanent changes to diet, it is widely accepted that following a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, cereals, and legumes can reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
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