Foods high in compounds called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) could contribute to the build up of beta-amyloid, a major hallmark of Alzheimer's disease
According to a study published today (Monday, 24 January) in the journal PNAS, AGEs are found in cooked foods and have previously been linked to health conditions including diabetes and dementia. This new research has uncovered a potential mechanism for how AGEs in the diet might contribute to Alzheimer's disease. According to the authors, AGEs suppress SIRT1 – a protein in the body thought to protect against neurodegeneration.
The researchers found that mice fed a diet low in AGEs boosted their levels of SIRT-1 protein and prevented the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain. In contrast, mice fed a diet high in AGEs developed beta-amyloid deposits and showed poor performance in both cognitive and motor tests. In addition, a small clinical study of healthy humans over the age of 60, found that people who had high AGEs in their blood also had low SIRT1 levels and developed cognitive decline over a nine month period.
AGEs are found in cooked food, particularly high fat proteins such as animal meat. They are produced by cooking so are very low in raw fruit and vegetables.
Alzheimer's Society comment:
'We are often told that burgers or fried chicken are bad for us and this study is not the first to link the chemicals in some cooked foods to Alzheimer's. However, this research adds to our understanding of how they might work and makes a strong case for further research.
'Diets with low levels of the compounds show promising effects in mice and should be further explored as a way to prevent dementia through changes in diet. Of course, we must not forget that the majority of research was conducted in mice and the human element of this study is too small to draw any conclusions.
'Evidence suggests that the best way to reduce your risk of developing dementia is regular exercise, not smoking and following a healthy diet.'
Dr Doug Brown
Director of Research and Development
Read more about this research and what it means for people worried about dementia