Research shows that foods high in glycotoxins, which includes browned meat, toast and instant coffee, are linked with higher rates of dementia and type 2 diabetes.
Scientists from the Icahn school of medicine, in New York, observed the effects of glycotoxins, known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), on mice and humans.
AGEs are produced when proteins or fats chemically bond with glucose. AGEs are found at varying levels in a number of different foods and levels of AGEs can be increased through processing and cooking.
Foods known to be notably high in AGEs include coffee (particularly instant coffee), beer (particularly sweetened root beer), cola, fruit juices, bread (particularly if toasted), pastries, cakes, biscuits and soy products.
The mice were split into two groups; one was fed a diet high in AGEs and the other with a diet that was not supplemented with AGEs. Both diets had an equal number of calories. The mice were later tested for the presence of amyloid-beta deposits (a marker for dementia) and for cognitive impairment. The research found the mice on the diet high in AGEs showed greater evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
In terms of the human subjects, blood tests were taken to measure the level of AGEs in older participants. Higher levels of AGEs in the blood were associated with a greater extent of dementia and insulin resistance. The effects of specific diets were not assessed in the human participants.
It is important to note the limitations of this study. For example, the diets fed to mice in research studies are chow diets, consisting of pellets made from ingredients such as casei, cornstarch, sucrose, soy, salt, vitamins plus additives to differentiate between diets. Laboratory mouse diets are not therefore your average Sunday lunch.
The media has largely focused on grilled and fried meat as being responsible for high levels of AGEs in the diet. Whilst browning of meat does indeed significantly raise levels of AGEs, so too do many other parts of our diet, particularly where added sugar is concerned.
Previous research has found that vegetarians have higher levels of AGEs in the blood than the general population, partly on account of having more fructose in their diets and another factor is that meat includes carnosine which can help to oppose glycation. Vegetables in the diet, however, have been shown to be associated with reduced risk of dementia.

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