Cooking meat linked to dementia progression

Most of us know someone who knows someone affected by dementia. New US research aims to shed some light on one possible cause. The research in question looked at Advanced glycation end-  products (AGE) which have also been linked to other conditions including type-2 diabetes.  The researchers found cooking meat ‘may’ be linked to dementia progression.

 Dementia is a significant and growing issue for patients and carers. The rate of dementia in the UK is increasing. Figures published by the Alzheimer’s Society suggests 1 in 14 people over 65 is living with dementia. The figure for the over 80s is 1 in 6.

As there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it’s widely appreciated studies into the causes of dementia can potentially be very significant.

The US study included mice and people. Researchers from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York, tested the effects of AGEs on people and mice. They found mice fed a diet with a high concentration of AGEs exhibited a build- up of dangerous proteins in the brain and exhibited impaired cognitive function. In essence the AGEs impact the chemistry of the brain: a build-up of defective beta amyloid protein. This is also a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

After the mice had been fed the AGEs rich diet they performed less well on thinking and physical tasks. Meanwhile, a short term study in people over 60 found a link between cognitive decline and high levels of AGEs in the blood.

Browning meat in the oven, grill, griddle or frying pan produces AGEs. The study concluded there may be a link between the two and reduction of food derived AGEs is feasible and may provide an effective treatment strategy.

The research has been welcomed on several fronts. However it’s also worth noting the people in the study did not have dementia. For some the research is best viewed as a stepping stone to further studies. Interestingly there is a possible link between diabetes and an increased risk of dementia. How the amount of AGEs in our diet influences our risk of dementia is unknown because it’s simply not been well studied in people. That said, diet is known to be a factor in other conditions. It would be a very significant finding indeed if the causal link could be proven for dementia.