Meat and Other AGE Foods Raise Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Some of the most popular foods in the United States are high in AGE, including meats and other animal products. These foods, and how they are prepared, may raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
AGE stands for advanced glycation end products, which are substances (glycotoxins) found naturally in the body. However, when you eat foods that contain high levels of AGE, you elevate your AGE levels and place your body at risk of type 2 diabetes as well as other degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease.
Analyses of foods show that the highest levels of AGE are in beef and cheeses (high-fat and aged cheeses have greater amounts than do lower-fat cheeses) followed by poultry, pork, and fish. Other high-fat foods such as butter, mayonnaise, and margarine also have high levels.
Cooking methods also have an impact on AGE levels. High and dry heating techniques such as grilling and broiling create even greater levels of AGEs than lower heat and cooking with water such as steaming or boiling.
New studies on AGEs and diabetes
A research team from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York conducted two studies. In the animal study, mice were fed foods that are a common part of the Western diet, such as red meats, other foods high in saturated fats, and empty carbohydrates. Here’s what the researchers found:
- The mice fed the Western diet showed higher levels of AGEs in their brains than mice fed a low-AGE diet.
- Mice with high levels of AGEs developed metabolic syndrome, which places individuals at greater risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- High AGE levels in mice were also associated with motor and cognitive problems as well as deposits of amino acids involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease
The other study looked at the impact of AGEs in two groups of healthy individuals older than 60. One group had high AGE levels while the other had low levels.
All the subjects were monitored for nine months, and the authors found that those who had high AGEs showed signs of insulin resistance and cognitive decline as well as suppression of SIRT1 in their blood. SIRT1 is a substance involved in the regulation of endocrine function, and people with type 2 diabetes tend to have suppressed SIRT1.
The healthy adults in the low AGE group did not show any of the signs seen in the high AGE group. The findings of these two studies suggest following a diet low in AGEs can help prevent type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is a low AGE diet?
A diet low in AGEs includes fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, milk, and whole grains. Eggs when boiled or poached are low, but other preparation methods significantly boost AGE levels.
That brings us to how foods are prepared. Cooking methods also can boost the levels of AGEs in foods.
Therefore, searing, roasting, grilling, broiling, and frying accelerate the formation of AGEs while boiling, steaming, simmering, and poaching do not. Remember that foods that are already high in AGEs (e.g., beef) have their levels elevated even further when they are prepared at high, dry heat. You can refer to a list of the AGE content of more than 500 foods for further assistance.
The bottom line
According to one of the study’s authors, Dr. Helen Vlassara, professor and director of the Division of Experimental Diabetes and Aging in the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai, the team’s findings “point to an easily achievable goal that could reduce the risk of these conditions through the consumption of non-AGE-rich foods.” The combination of foods low in AGE and the right cooking methods can help achieve that goal.
Uribarri J et al. Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2010 Jun; 110(6): 911-16
Vlassara H et al. Oral glycotoxins are a modifiable cause of dementia and the metabolic syndrome in ice and humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2014 Jan 24.