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Published On: Tue, Mar 4th, 2014

Bacon and eggs linked to dementia disease, study claims

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Cutting back on fry ups could cut your risk of dementia, according to new research.

A ‘compelling’ study has linked compounds found in fried meat and eggs with one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bacon is particularly problematic and the suspect chemicals are also found in many cakes, biscuits and pastries.

The researchers said that reducing intake could help prevent the crippling condition – and may even help restore memory that has been lost.

British experts said that with drug cures for Alzheimer’s still many years away, attempts to prevent the disease are of extreme importance.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect some 800,000 Britons and the number is predicted to double in a generation as the population ages.

Existing medicines are of limited use and several highly-promising pills and potions have failed to live up to their promise.

The research, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, focused on compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs.

They are formed when fat, protein and sugar react on being heated and are found in particularly high levels in bacon, sausages, pizzas and burgers.

Frying and grilling is particularly bad, while boiling does not lead to them being made.

The researchers tracked the progress of a group of mice fed food containing levels of AGEs proportional to those in a Western diet and another group fed half the amount of the compound.

Their calorie intake was the same but only the mice on the AGE-rich diet suffered problems with memory, learning and co-ordination as they get older.

They also made less of an anti-ageing protein and their brains contained beta-amyloid, a sticky protein considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Results of experiments on people were similarly striking.

Tests on healthy pensioners showed that only those who had high amounts of AGEs they had in their diet became more forgetful over the coming months.




More work is needed but the researchers said cutting back on the compounds might help improve mental sharpness and ‘combat the epidemic’ of Alzheimer’s disease.

Diabetes might also be helped, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Researcher Professor Helen Vlassara, who also wants to test a drug that mops up excess AGES, advises that people steam and boil food rather than grill or fry it.

She suggests that fans of a fried breakfast ditch the bacon all together and poach their eggs.

The professor said: ‘One should sue some inventiveness. One does not have to eat raw or tasteless food.’

Tom Dening, professor of dementia research at Nottingham University, said that the studies needed to prove that cutting back on AGEs helps prevent Alzheimer’s would be lengthy.

He said: ‘In the meantime, crunch those carrots and reach for the brown rice.’

Professor Derek Hill, of University College London, said: ‘These results are compelling. Because cures for Alzheimer’s disease remain a distant hope, efforts to prevent it are extremely important.’

Professor Simon Lovestone, of Oxford University, said that the solution will not be as simple as cutting back on one type of food and eating more of another.

Instead, he hopes that learning more about what goes wrong in the body and brain will lead to new drugs.

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘This research is at an early stage, and continued investment in research is crucial to understand the significance of results like this.

‘The diseases that cause dementia are complex, and our risk of the condition is likely to be affected by a number of genetic and environmental factors that are not yet fully understood.

‘In the meantime, the best evidence suggests that a balanced diet can help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and weight in check.’



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