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Glycotoxins in Browned, Overcooked Foods May Cause Alzheimers

Updated on November 15, 2016
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Dr. John uses skills in Biochemistry, Physiology (PhD) to review topics on mental health, depression, sleep, stress, setting positive goals

Recent studies with mice has provided another clue in the puzzle to reveal the cause of Alzheimers Disease and dementia.

Cooking vegetables is known to release more vitamin in foods by breaking down cell walls and changing some nutrients into a form that can be readily absorbed. Cooking also makes food more palatable.

However, overcooking and 'browning foods' denatures protein, destroys vitamins and removes many nutrients in the food.

The browning of foods occurs through a process known as glycation, when a sugar molecule, such as fructose or glucose are bound to protein molecules.

This produces what are called glycotoxins. This process can occur within the body or externally when food is cooked or prepared prior to being eaten. Glycotoxins are also referred to as Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs).

Recent research studies showed that mice fed a diet rich in AGEs showed a build-up of amyloid protein in their brains, and showed cognitive impairment typical of dementia. These changes did not occur in mice fed on a low-AGEs diet.

When the AGE levels of a group of about 100 healthy humans were examined there was a correlation between AGE level and amount of cognitive decline and insulin resistance in the subjects.

This article reviews the evidence that glycotoxins could be a potential cause of dementia, Alzeimers Disease and diabetes.

Glycotoxins form when a sugar molecule is bound to a lipid or protein molecule, ofter when food is caramelized or overcooked
Glycotoxins form when a sugar molecule is bound to a lipid or protein molecule, ofter when food is caramelized or overcooked | Source
Browned food contains glycotoxins which may cause dementia
Browned food contains glycotoxins which may cause dementia | Source
Crispy skin foods, such as this duck dish, may pose a risk for diabetes and dementia due to glycotoxins
Crispy skin foods, such as this duck dish, may pose a risk for diabetes and dementia due to glycotoxins | Source
Charred and 'well-cooked' meat may pose a risk for developing dementia and diabetes later in life due to glycotoxins created when food is overcooked at high temperatures.
Charred and 'well-cooked' meat may pose a risk for developing dementia and diabetes later in life due to glycotoxins created when food is overcooked at high temperatures. | Source

Glycotoxins - Food Sources and Origins from Cooking

Glycation refers to the bonding of a protein or lipid molecule with a sugar molecule (such as glucose or fructose) producing glycotoxins, that are also referred to as Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). This process can occur within the body (via enzymes) or externally when food is cooked or prepared prior to being eaten. Cooking with temperatures over 250 degrees F (120 degrees C), such as frying and roasting, greatly accelerates the chemical reactions, especially when sugar is added to food being cooked, to brown or caramelize the food. Charred and over-cooked grilled and barbecued meats have high levels of glycotoxins.

However, these substances can also accumulate in foods at lower temperatures with long cooking times. Glyoctoxins are also added to many foods as flavor enhancers.

Many processed foods have high AGEs and glycotoxins, either due to processing or added ingredients. Some foods such as nuts have high natural levels of AGEs even when raw. Roasting of nuts increases the level of AGEs. Butter and margarine also has high levels. Food with moderate to high glycotoxins includes donuts, cookies, cakes, barbecued meats, processed meats and even some dark colored soft drinks. High levels of glyoctoxins are also found in fried or grilled meat, bacon, toasted bread, fried eggs and many foods that are browned or caramelized during the cooking. See the table below for a list of foods with the highest level of AGEs .

Link between Glycotoxins Dementia, Alzheimers and Diabetes

Recent studies showed that mice fed a diet rich in glycotoxins, at levels similar to typical Western human diets had:

  • lower levels of sirtuins*, sometimes called the ‘longevity molecules’
  • cognitive decline
  • plaque deposits in their brains
  • signs of insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes.

Mice fed half the amount of glycotoxins did not experience these problems.

* Sirtuins have been shown to affect a wide range of cellular processes linked with aging, transcription, and inflammation. Suppression of NAD+-dependent sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) has been linked to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and the metabolic syndrome. Sirtuins have also been linked with diabetes and aging processes.

A study of almost 100 healthy humans, over 60 years of age, supported the potential link between high glycotoxin levels and suppression of sirtuin levels in the blood, with cognitive impairment and insulin resistance.

Other animal studies have suggested that boosting sirtuin levels could increase life expectancy by up to 50 per cent.

Another study of 40 healthy subjects were randomly assigned to two groups. One group continued their typical Western diet that was rich in AGEs. The other group essentially ate the same foods but were encouraged to avoid grilling, baking or frying their food and to cook their food by poaching, stewing, or steaming their meals. The calorie and nutrient intake of the two groups was essentially the same. After four months on the AGE-reduced diet, the level of various health indicators declined by as much as 60 percent.

Many researchers have suggested that dementia is Diabetes Type 3, because the development of insulin resistance may trigger dementia, because insulin is linked with brain health. A recent study using rats, showed that resistance to insulin interferes with fat metabolism in the brain.When the insulin metabolism in rats was induced artificially, it caused increased stress and inflammation in the brain and triggered symptoms similar to those of dementia.

A more recent research study suggests that increased AGEs levels in the diet, could trigger Alzheimer’s disease, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome by causing chronic reduction in SIRT1 levels in the blood. Perhaps high levels of AGEs in foods is the common cause triggering reductions in SIRT1 and leading to both Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, later in life.

While the research findings need to be confirmed, and do not prove a link between AGE and glycotoxins, and the increased risk of dementia and Alzeimers, changes in the way food is cooked and avoiding food high in added AGE may be warranted. Simple changes in diet and the way food is cooked may be beneficial.

How Can the Risk of Glycotoxins be Reduced?

You can reduce the number of glycotoxins in your food by cooking it at a lower heat.

This means avoiding the following cooking methods:

  • Addition of sugar or sugar laden sauces during the final stages of cooking
  • Caramelizing processes
  • Frying of foods
  • Charing of grilled and barbecued meats
  • Crispy skinned food
  • Microwaved foods (rather than just heating foods)
  • Broiling foods
  • Charring foods

Instead Use low temperature cooking methods such as:

  • Steaming
  • Stewing
  • Boiling
  • Poaching
  • Using acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar

Avoid Natural Foods, Ingredients and Processed Foods Rich in AGEs

Many processed foods are rich in AGEs, either because of the way they are cooked or prepared or because AGEs are added as flavor or color enhancers. The table below provides a list of the foods with the highest level of AGEs.

The foods with highest glyoctoxins are:

  • Bacon, smoked and Processed meats
  • Grilled, fried and barbecued meats
  • Nuts
  • Cheese
  • Mayonnaise and Sauces
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Roasted peanuts and peanut butter

Advanced Glycation End Product (AGE) content of 100g of common foods, based on carboxymethyllysine test (see reference)

Food item
AGE kU (see reference) /100g serving
Bacon, fried 5 min no added oil
Butter, whipped
Chicken, skin, back or thigh, roasted then BBQ
Margarine, tub
Cheese, parmesan, grated (Kraft)
Beef, frankfurter, broiled 450°F, 5 min
Pine nuts (pignolias), raw (Bazzini’s Nut Club)
Chicken, skin, thigh, roasted
Chicken, skin, leg, roasted
Cream cheese, Philadelphia soft, (Kraft)
Beef, steak, pan fried w/olive oil
Chicken, breast, breaded, oven fried, 25 min, with skin
Cashews, roasted
Chicken, breast, breaded, deep fried, 20 min
Beef, steak, strips, stir fried with 1 T canola oil, 15 min
Chicken, selects (McDonald’s)
Bacon, microwaved, 2 slices, 3 min
Turkey, burger, pan fried with cooking spray
Chicken, back or thigh, roasted then BBQ
Whiting, breaded, oven fried, 25 min
Cream cheese, Philadelphia original (Kraft)
Cheese, American, white, processed
Chicken, nuggets, fast food (McDonald’s)
Cheese, feta, Greek, soft
Peanuts, cocktail (Planters, Kraft)
Chicken, dark meat, broiled, inside, 450°F, 15 min
Turkey, burger, pan fried with 5 mL canola oil, 3.5 min, high heat
Chicken, breast, with skin, 450°F, 45 min
Turkey, burger, pan fried with cooking spray, 5 min, high heat
Walnuts, roasted
Chicken, crispy (McDonald’s)
Peanut butter, smooth
Beef, frankfurter, boiled in water, 212° F, 7 min
Beef, steak, broiled
Chicken, breast, breaded/pan fried
Beef, steak, grilled 4 min, George Foreman grill
Chicken, fried, in olive oil, 8 min
Beef, steak, strips, stir fried without oil, 7 min
Beef, steak, strips, 450°F, 15 min
Cashews, raw
Almonds, roasted
Chicken, breast, roasted, 45 min with skin
Peanuts, dry roasted, unsalted (Planters, Kraft)
Turkey, ground, grilled, crust
Chicken, curry, cube skinless breast, pan fry 10 min, broiled 12 min
Margarine, tub, various brands
Chicken, kebab, cubed skinless breast, pan fried, 15 min
Beef, roast
Chicken, roasted
Turkey, breast, smoked, seared
Turkey, ground, grilled, interior
Tofu, sautéed, outside
Chicken, breast, skinless, broiled, 450°F, 15 min
Chicken, breast, skinless, breaded, reheated 1 min
Chicken, curry, cube skinless breast, steam 10 min, broiled 12 min
Cheese, brie
Beef, ground, 20% fat, pan/cover
Cheese, cheddar
Sausage, beef and pork links, pan fried
Beef, hamburger (McDonald’s )
Chicken, breast, pan fried, 13 min high/microwave 12.5 secc
Turkey, burger, broiled
Chestnut, roasted, in toaster oven 350°F for 27 min
Tuna, broiled, with vinegar dressing
Chicken, thigh, roasted
Tuna, broiled, with soy, 10 min
Chicken, breast, pan fried, 13 min, high
Beef, ground, 20% fat, pan browned
Chicken, breast, grilled/George Foreman grill
Sausage, Italian, BBQ
Chicken, breast, skinless, roasted with BBQ sauce
Pork, chop, pan fried, 7 min
Cheese, Swiss, reduced fat
Tofu, sautéed
Sunflower seeds, roasted and salted
Turkey, breast, roasted
Chicken, leg, roasted
Chicken, breast, skinless, breaded
Cheese, Swiss, processed
Pork, ribs, roasted, Chinese take out
Shrimp frozen dinner, microwaved 4.5 min
Turkey, breast, steak, skinless, marinated w/orange juice, broiled
Salmon, broiled with olive oil
Shrimp, fried, breaded (take out)
Beef, meatball, potted (cooked in liquid), 1 hour
Chicken, breast, strips, stir fried with canola oil, 7 min
Tofu, broiled

© 2014 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • raymondphilippe profile image

    Raymond Philippe 3 years ago from The Netherlands

    This is interesting stuff and a bit scary too. Fortunately we are not mice :-) But this research could lead the way. Voted up and interesting

  • profile image

    calculus-geometry 3 years ago

    I had always heard that eating too much charred and browned food was bad for you, this is very interesting and quite thorough. Have they determined what level of consumption is safe? It doesn't seem possible to reduce your intake to zero.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 3 years ago from Washington State, USA

    Very interesting (and a bit frightening as well). My mother had Alzheimers.

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

    Officially I can not eat anything. Either I am allergic or it's just bad for you. You justified my resistance to browning. I always thought it just took too long.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

    This proves that everything delicious is harmful. Just kidding but I do feel like that sometimes! Great hub with important information.

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