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Grilling food increases abdominal fat and diabetes: study

Kimberly Gillan
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

After last week's news that pan frying meat could increase prostate cancer risk we have another study that makes us think about how we cook our meals.

Researchers believe they've uncovered a compound produced when we cook food with dry heat that could be contributing to abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

The compound, methyn-glyoxal (MG), is a form of advanced glycation endproduct (AGEs) which have been found to decrease the body's ability to control inflammation.

The research

The researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York followed two groups of mice for four generations. Both groups consumed diets with normal amounts of calories and fat, but one group was fed a diet high in MG, while a control group was fed a diet without MG.

Over four generations, the mice that ate a high MG diet developed more body fat and early insulin resistance compared with the control group.

The researchers, whose study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, believe MG hinders protective mechanisms that control inflammation, while also enhancing the metabolism of insulin and glucose.

"This was a prolonged but rewarding study showing that a specific AGE compound abundant in foods, within only a few generations in mouse terms, contributes to the increase in weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes, reproducing the pattern seen increasingly in humans over the last decades," study leader Dr Helen Vlassara said in a media release.

"These key findings should inform how we understand and prevent the human epidemic of obesity and diabetes."

Dr Vlassara said her study shows that prolonged ingestion of seemingly harmless substances can have a big impact on our health.

"The mouse findings are also quite exciting because they provide us with new tools, not only to study, but to begin taking measures to prevent diabetes, either by suppressing their formation or by blocking their absorption with our food," she said.

How to cook

In past clinical research, Dr Vlassara's team found that reducing foods high in AGEs improves insulin resistance in adults with type 2 diabetes. Now she recommends people try stewing, poaching and steaming meat.

"Our findings reflect the need for a dramatic departure from standard clinical recommendations, which should now include a reduction in the amount of dry heat and processed foods in the diet," Dr Vlassara said.

Gallery: Stew and casserole recipes

Don't change everything just yet

Professor Michael Cowley, director of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute, told ninemsn the study was interesting but that more comprehensive studies on humans were needed before experts could make precise recommendations.

"This provides evidence that it might be worth conducting a randomised controlled trial looking at what might happen in a group of people who don't grill their meat and a group of people who do grill their meat," he said.

"I wouldn't say that a single paper means we should start changing dietary guidelines but we have a new understanding of what might be causing an effect. At the moment there is not enough data to suggest we should bring the food police in."

However he said it wouldn't hurt for Australians to mix up their cooking methods.

"Exploring other options is a good idea," he said.

"Largely thanks to the Americanisation of our culture, we do see grilling as the ultimate cooking."

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