Just as summer is coming in and many are dusting off the barbecue a new study says barbecued food may not be that healthy.
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York suggest that toxic chemicals released by grilling, broiling and frying meat may increase the risk for life-threatening diseases.
The researchers say 'advanced glycation end products', also known as AGE products or AGEs, are produced and absorbed into the body when meat or cheese is cooked at high temperatures; this also happens when foods are sterilized or pasteurized.
The researchers says when AGEs build up in the body, oxidative stress occurs and damage linked to aging results.
Dr. Helen Vlassara and her colleagues says that high-temperature cooking, AGEs, and activation of the immune system triggers inflammation, and sustained and chronic inflammation damages the tissues; this in turn damages the heart, the kidneys and the brain.
Their study involved 172 healthy men and women who were divided into two age groups,18 to 45 and 60 to 80.
All had their body weight and body fat measured, had blood samples collected and completed a three-day food diary.
The researchers found that AGE levels tended to be higher in older people, whose bodies seem to have less ability to remove the chemicals.
Vlassara says excessive intake of fried, broiled, and grilled foods can overload the body's natural capacity to remove AGEs, and she has called for nutrition levels of trans fat, calorie and sugar content to be identified on food labels.
The researchers also found that the more people ate foods rich in the compounds, the higher their blood levels of AGE and markers for inflammation such as C-reactive protein.
They say the levels of AGEs in some young healthy adults were similar to those seen in people with diabetes in earlier studies.
As it is clear that AGEs are another factor in the aging process, nutrition experts advise people to consider cooking alternatives such as boiling, steaming and stewing.
Vlassara says while the occasional barbecue is probably alright, keeping the heat down and maintaining the water content in food reduces AGE levels as well as adding acidic liquids such as lemon or vinegar which also help counteract some of the AGEs.
The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.