Over the next 10 years, the number of Americans aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease will reach an estimated 7.1 million. The number of deaths from diabetes is expected to rise more than 50 percent. Increasing more research indicates that lifestyle plays a big role determining the risk for these diseases. One of the latest findings points the finger at meat consumption as a contributing factor.
Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes risk linked with fried and grilled meats
As we age, it becomes more difficult for our body to repair itself, so Alzheimer’s is more of a threat. The disease attacks the brain for more than a decade before any symptoms of memory problems and dementia emerge, and doctors now say that drug trials are failing because patients are treated too late to make a difference.
Other factors setting the stage for Alzheimer’s, include inherited genes, hormonal changes in women, head trauma such as repeated concussions, inflammatory conditions, and all the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Sound familiar?
Diabetes has also been associated with people who suffer from this debilitating brain disease. When it comes to diabetes itself, race, genetics, dietary habits, inactivity, weight, and damaged immune system cells have been listed as risk factors.
Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York say we should consider adding grilled meat to the list of risk factors for both of these diseases. They report their findings with both animals and humans show that eating heat-processed meat – meat that’s been grilled or broiled – could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. No more baby-back ribs on the grill, sorry!
High levels of AGEs linked to greater levels of cognitive decline and insulin resistance
Why? Heat-processed animal products contain high levels of compounds known as “glycation end-products” or AGEs. This compound does exist at a very low level in the body; however, consuming foods with high levels raises the risk of certain diseases.
The researchers first examined mice that consumed foods with high levels of AGEs. Those that devoured foods with high levels of the compound, such as red meats, saturated fats and empty carbohydrates, had high amounts of AGEs in their brain. They developed cognitive and motor function disabilities. They also had deposits of amino acids in their brains that normally are present during the development of Alzheimer’s disease. These same mice further developed metabolic syndrome, which increased their risk of diabetes.
Following the study with mice, the researchers conducted a clinical study with healthy humans over the age of 60. Some of them had high AGE levels in their blood while others had low AGE levels. After closely monitoring the subjects for nine months, those with high AGE levels developed cognitive decline and showed signs of insulin resistance. People with low AGE levels in their brain remained healthy.
The findings suggest that a diet of seafood, poultry, plant proteins like beans and soy, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables is the better way to go. Limit those unhealthy saturated fats and empty carbohydrates like white bread and crackers. Red meats should be consumed on rare occasion only.
The cooking method is just as important. Foods that are cooked or processed under lower heat levels and in the presence of more water or liquid produce less of the harmful compound that ultimately alters the brain. Get out that crock pot.
This could be a tough sell. Statistics show that 62 percent of Americans uses a grill year-round. The research team acknowledges that further study is needed, but say these new findings are significant, and should get us thinking about changing our cooking methods, as well as adding more variety– less barbecue! – to our diets.