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How You Cook Meat Can Increase Dementia Risk

Update Date: Feb 25, 2014 09:34 AM EST

Foods can be cooked in multiple ways, such as frying or broiling, which can change the flavors of the foods significantly. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of different cooking styles on people's brain health. The team reported that in mice models, browning, grilling or frying meat could increase one's dementia risk.

For this study, the researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York gave mice a diet that was either high or low in AGEs. AGEs stands for advanced glycation end products, which is created when proteins or fats combine and react with sugar. The researchers reported that AGEs are created naturally when meats are browned in the oven, grilled and cooked in a frying pan.

The researchers found that the mice that ate a high AGE diet ended up with impaired cognitive function. They also had poorer physical capabilities and had a harder time with thinking tasks. These mice had defective beta amyloid protein build-up in the brain, which is an indicator of Alzheimer's disease. The mice in the low AGE diet group did not exhibit these symptoms.

"We report that age-related dementia may be causally linked to high levels of food advanced glycation end products," the authors wrote according to BBC News. "Importantly, reduction of food-derived AGEs is feasible and may provide an effective treatment strategy."

The researchers reported that a short-term analysis of seniors over the age of 60 also suggested a possible link between high levels of AGEs present in the blood and mental decline. For this analysis, the team had monitored 93 adults who provided blood samples and filled out a standard questionnaire that screened for dementia. Despite this finding, the researchers stated that the sample set was extremely small and was not well-controlled, which meant that the researchers had no control over other factors in the people's lives that could have affected mental health.

"We need larger, well-controlled studies to identify a strict correlation between dietary AGEs and cognitive [mental] decline," said Dr. Jeremy Koppel, a geriatric psychiatrist and scientist at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y according to WebMD. "The take-away is that a diet enriched in these compounds seems to do bad things in mice."

"Because cures for Alzheimer's disease remain a distant hope, efforts to prevent it are extremely important, but this study should be seen as encouraging further work, rather than as providing definitive answers," professor of medicine imaging sciences at the University College London, Derek Hill, stated. "But it is grounds for optimism - this paper adds to the body of evidence suggesting that using preventative strategies might reduce the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias in society and that could have very positive impact on us all."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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