Food Prep May Be as Important as Ingredients Themselves

Frying, grilling can boost hazardous inflammatory toxins, scientists say

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TUESDAY, April 24, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The methods used to produce or cook food may have as much impact on your health as the actual food, U.S. researchers report.

Grilled, fried or broiled animal products such as meats and cheeses contain a class of toxins called "advanced glycation end products" (AGEs), which have been linked to inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular and kidney disease, and Alzheimer's disease, say a team from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

AGEs are also produced when food products are sterilized and pasteurized.

In a new study, the Mount Sinai researchers found that healthy people can have elevated levels of AGEs in their blood and that levels tend to be higher in older adults than in younger adults.

The study of 172 healthy men and women, ages 18-45 and ages 60-80, found that AGE levels were 35 percent higher in participants age 64 and older than in those younger than age 45.

Overall, the higher the participants' consumption of foods rich in AGEs, the higher their blood levels of AGEs and the higher their levels of C-reactive protein and other biomarkers of inflammation.

The major factor determining blood levels of AGEs is the amount of AGEs in the diet, not the amount of dietary calories, sugar or fat, the researchers said.

They were also surprised to discover that young, healthy people could have very high levels of AGEs -- concentrations that were in the same range as those of people with diabetes. This suggests that early and prolonged exposure to AGEs could accelerate the onset of diseases, the researchers said.

The study was published in the April issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

"AGEs are quite deceptive, since they also give our food desirable tastes and smells," senior author Dr. Helen Vlassara, professor of medicine and geriatrics, and director of the Division of Experimental Diabetes and Aging at Mount Sinai, said in a prepared statement.

"So, consuming high amounts of grilled, broiled or fried food means consuming significant amounts of AGEs, and AGEs in excess are toxic. People should be given information about AGE intake and be advised to consider their intake in the same way they would think about their trans fats and salt intake. They should be warned about their AGE levels the way they are about their cholesterol levels or cigarette smoking," Vlassara said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers tips on healthy eating.

SOURCE: Mount Sinai Medical Center, news release, April 24, 2007

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