High Cooking Temperature and Inflammation

Learn why you should be wary of advanced glycation end products.


If you’ve already given up fried bacon and grilled steak to reduce saturated fat in your diet, there may be another good reason to continue avoiding these foods: Foods typically cooked at high temperatures, like meats, may exacerbate inflammation.

Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that frying, roasting, searing or grilling certain foods at high temperatures produces compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Your body produces AGEs, also known as glycotoxins, as part of the metabolic process. AGEs are also present in raw animal products, including meat. Cooking, especially at high temperatures, forms new AGEs in foods.

Although some AGEs are not bad, high levels of the compounds in the tissues and blood can trigger an inflammatory response and have been linked to the recent epidemics of diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“We expect that increased levels of AGEs increase inflammation, although a direct link to arthritis is not firmly established,” says Jaime Uribarri, MD, the Mount Sinai physician who has led many studies into the effects of AGEs on the body.

Research shows that restricting the amount of dietary AGEs accelerates wound healing, improves insulin sensitivity and helps prevent diabetes, vascular and kidney dysfunction.

The highest levels of dietary AGEs (dAGEs) are found in beef, pork, fish and eggs; even lean meats like chicken contain high levels of dAGEs when they are cooked with dry heat. Compared to other meats, lamb had the lowest levels of dAGEs. It’s estimated that 10 percent of AGEs we get from eating seared burgers and fried chicken may be absorbed into our tissues and bloodstream.

This news doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite breakfast meat or get rid of the barbecue forever. “Just diminish your exposure,” advises Dr. Uribarri.

 To achieve a lower AGE diet, try the following:

  • Limit the amount of grilled, broiled, fried and microwaved meats in your diet.
  • Reduce the cooking temperature of meats and proteins. Steam fish and seafood, simmer chicken in a sauce and braise red meat in a cooking liquid.
  • Cut down on processed foods. Many prepared foods have been exposed to a high cooking temperature to lengthen shelf life, so they may have high AGE contents.
  • Get more fruits and veggies in your diet. Cooked or raw, they’re naturally low in AGEs, and many contain compounds such as antioxidants that can decrease some of the damage done by AGEs.

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