Life Extension Magazine January 2013
As We See It
Are You Cooking Yourself to Death?
By William Faloon
People nowadays categorize foods as being healthy or risky.
Overlooked are robust findings showing that how food is cooked has a lot to do with whether it prevents or causes disease.
One example is fish. We know that those who eat ocean fish have fewer heart attacks…but if one eats only fried fish, risk of heart disease increases.1,2
Depending on the cooking method, the same food can either accelerate obesity or aid in weight loss. Less understood are prevalent ways of cooking that convert foods into deadly toxins.
Back in 2003, I described a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that eating foods cooked at high temperature increases the rate at which we age. Scientists uncovered back then that ingestion of high temperature cooked foods resulted in chronic inflammation and accelerated glycation.3
Newly published studies confirm these dangers. For example, breast and prostate cancers are sharply increased in those who eat heavily cooked meat like hamburgers.4-8
This article will explain how to choose safely cooked foods and methods to protect your body against the lethal impact of foods prepared at excessively high temperatures.
When any food is heated to high temperature (over 300 degrees), chemical changes occur that inflict damage to our cells after we eat that food.9-11
Be it fat, carbohydrate, or protein, when exposed to high temperatures, toxic compounds form that you don't want in your body. We have repeatedly warned about the dangers of eating over-cooked foods…especially meat.
A study released in 2012 from a prestigious medical center found that men who ate just 1.5 servings of pan-fried red meat each week increased their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 30%. Men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperature were 40% more likely to have advanced prostate cancer.12 Considering that some men eat high temperature cooked meat every day, is it any wonder that aging men suffer epidemic rates of prostate cancer?
Fortunately most Life Extension® members take supplements with meals that help neutralize the proven carcinogens that form when meat is overcooked.13
Eating Lower-Temperature Cooked Foods Promotes Weight Loss
In 2003, we reported on a fascinating study showing that diabetics who consumed a low-temperature cooked diet lost weight compared to a group that consumed the same numbers of calories, carbohydrates, fats, and protein cooked at higher temperature. Not only did the low-temperature prepared diet facilitate weight loss, but there were also reductions in blood glucose.3
This six-week study showed that eating the same food cooked at low-temperature reduced glycated-LDL by 33%, whereas diabetics consuming the same higher temperature prepared foods increased glycated-LDL by 32%.3
Move forward to 2012 and a team of researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine identified a compound in over-cooked foods that plays a major role in the development of abdominal obesity and its related diseases.
The scientists found that mice with sustained exposure to this compound (methyl-glyoxal) developed significant abdominal weight gain, early insulin resistance, immune changes consistent with inflammation/oxidation and type II diabetes.14 Methyl-glyoxal is a type of advanced glycation end product that is produced when food is cooked with dry heat.
Most of you already know that glycation is a deadly mechanism of aging that destroys functioning proteins in the body and induces chronic inflammation, which in turn promotes weight gain.15-19 Nutrients like carnosine,20-25 benfotiamine,26-32 and pyridoxal-5-phosphate33-36 are potent anti-glycation agents.
In the Mount Sinai study, one group of mice was fed a diet high in methyl-glyoxal over four generations, while the control group was fed a diet without methyl-glyoxal. Both diets had normal calories and fat. Over four generations, the mice that ate the methyl-glyoxal developed early insulin resistance and increased body fat, whereas the control group had neither of these conditions.14
This study showed how a specific glycation-inducing compound (methyl-glyoxal), abundant in over-cooked foods, contributes to an increase in weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes. This same pattern of metabolic disturbance has occurred in human populations over recent decades.
The scientists found that the abdominal fat of the methyl-glyoxal fed mice produced pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are major causes of disease and weight gain in humans. In the presence of this glycation-inducing compound, glucose metabolism was impaired and fat turnover slowed. The result was insulin resistance and diabetes. Mice fed the low-glycation diet did not develop such problems.14
The research team that conducted this study recommends that clinical guidelines be revised to eliminate foods cooked using dry heat and replace them with methods that use lower heat or lots of moisture (water) as in stewing, poaching, or steaming.37 They gave examples of healthier dietary practices that include stewed beef, chicken, and fish instead of grilled meats.
Extinguishing Inflammatory Fires Within
As humans age, there is a systemic increase in inflammatory cytokines (destructive cell-signaling chemicals) that contribute to virtually every degenerative disease.38-49
While inflammatory cytokines can cause agonizing pain as in arthritis,50,51 they also disrupt the linings of our arteries,52-55 mutate DNA,56-59 and degrade brain cells.60-63 Chronic inflammation is directly involved in diseases as diverse as cancer,64-69 atherosclerosis,70-74 diabetes,75-77 aortic valve stenosis,78-80 congestive heart failure,81-84 Alzheimer's disease,85-88 and kidney failure.89-92
In aging people with multiple degenerative diseases, we often find elevated blood levels of C-reactive protein, indicating the presence of an inflammatory disorder.93-99 These individuals usually have excess levels of one or more of the pro-inflammatory cytokines.
The good news is that many of the nutrients, hormones and drugs being taken by Life Extension members suppress the production of these deadly cytokines. An increasing body of evidence reveals that avoiding foods cooked at very high temperatures can also reduce production of cytokines, thus helping to extinguish the inflammatory fire raging in the bodies of most aging people today. Wouldn't it be incredible if Americans could throw away side effect-laden pain killing drugs just by changing the way their food is prepared?
Age-Accelerating Effects of Glycation
Glycation can be described as the binding of a protein molecule to a glucose molecule resulting in the formation of damaged protein structures. Many age-related diseases such as arterial stiffening,126-130 cataracts,131-133 and neurological impairment134-139 are at least partially attributable to glycation. These destructive glycation reactions render proteins in the body barely functional. As these degraded proteins accumulate, they cause cells to emit signals that induce the production of inflammatory cytokines.
While there are nutrients (such as pyridoxal-5-phosphate and benfotiamine) that help protect against glycation,32 reducing consumption of foods cooked at high temperature can dramatically suppress deadly glycation processes, and the subsequent formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
Cooking and Aging Have Similar Biological Properties
Cooking foods at high temperatures results in a "browning" effect, where sugars and certain oxidized fats react with proteins to form glycotoxins in the food. Normal aging can also be regarded as a slow cooking process, since these same glycotoxins form in the skin, arteries, eye lenses, joints, and cartilage of our body.
Studies show that consuming foods high in glycotoxins can be responsible for the induction of a low-grade, but chronic state of inflammation.15 In addition, the glycotoxins in food cooked at high temperatures also promote the formation of glycotoxins in our living tissues.3,140 Thus when we eat foods altered by high temperature cooking, these foods inflict similar damage to living proteins in our body.
Don't "Cook" Yourself to Death
Most Life Extension members already follow a healthy lifestyle that helps prevent glycation and chronic inflammation.