A new study has concluded that advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), which occur in heat-processed meat and animal products, can cause brain changes similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease or metabolic syndrome, a pre-diabetic state. Weijing Cai, et al., “Oral glycotoxins are a modifiable  cause of dementia and the metabolic syndrome in mice and humans,” PNAS, February 2014. Led by researchers at the Icahn school of Medicine at Mount sinai, the study reportedly used a mouse model to show that consuming AGe-rich foods “raised the body’s level of AGes, which, among other effects, suppressed levels of sirtuin, or sIRT1, a key ‘host defense’ shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease as well as metabolic syndrome.”

The study’s authors noted that mice fed a high-AGE diet not only exhibited high levels of AGe in their brains and low levels of sIRT1 in their blood and brain tissue, but also developed cognitive and motor skill declines, amyloid-β deposits characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and metabolic syndrome. In addition, a clinical study of humans ages 60 and older purportedly showed that, “over a nine-month period, those subjects with high blood levels of AGes developed cognitive decline, signs of insulin resistance and sIRT1 suppres- sion, while those with low blood AGes remained healthy.”

“Age-associated dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is currently epidemic in  our society and is closely linked to diabetes. Our studies of both animals and human subjects confirm that AGe-rich foods are a lifestyle-driven reality with major health implications. The findings point to an easily achievable goal  that could reduce the risk of these conditions through the consumption of non-AGe-rich foods, for example, foods that cooked or processed under lower heat levels and in the presence of more water—cooking methods employed for centuries,” explained co-author Helen Vlassara in a February 24, 2014, press release. “While more research needs to be done to discover the exact connec- tion of food AGes to metabolic and neurological disorders, the new findings again emphasize the importance of not just what we eat, but also how we prepare what we eat. By cutting AGes, we bolster the body’s own natural defenses against Alzheimer’s disease as well as diabetes.” Additional details about Vlassara’s previous research appear in Issue 8 of this Update.