A study in this month's Diabetes Care finds that ingesting food or drink rich in advanced glycation end products (AGEs) causes immediate, short-lived but significant endothelial dysfunction, shedding light on the mechanism by which dietary AGE content can be linked to cardiovascular disease.
AGEs are a group of compounds produced within the body as a result of hyperglycemia or formed in foods rich in protein and fat when cooked at high and dry heat (e.g. by broiling, grilling, frying or roasting). They may also form spontaneously in foods during storage at room temperature, though they are produced at an accelerated pace as temperatures increase during cooking. Fast foods, such as hamburgers and fries, as well as any fat-rich foods cooked at high temperatures, tend to be highest in AGE content. Foods that are stewed or steam-cooked tend to have lower AGE concentrations.
AGEs have previously been associated with many of the chronic complications of diabetes, such as heart disease. This study found that drinking a single concentrated amount of an AGE-rich beverage induced significant endothelial dysfunction in both people who had diabetes and in those who did not. Endothelial dysfunction is an early indicator of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which leads to cardiovascular disease.
"Although the effect was temporary, it suggests that AGEs could, over time, pose a significant risk to the vascular integrity of both diabetic and healthy persons," said lead researcher Dr. Jaime Uribarri, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Since AGEs occur at higher levels in foods that are broiled, fried or braised, the study also suggests that it's not only what you eat but how it is prepared that may affect your risk for cardiovascular disease. An editorial accompanying this study concluded that such lines of research would ultimately "impact our eating and cooking habits and the choice of foods that we eat."
Diabetes Care, published by the American Diabetes Association, is the leading peer-reviewed journal of clinical research into the nation's fifth leading cause of death by disease. Diabetes also is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, as well as the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputations. For more information about diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association Web site www.diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).