If you don’t know what AGEs are, you should. Avoiding AGEs in foods and cooking may reduce your baby’s risk of developing childhood asthma by about 25 percent, according to researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital and medical school. When meat and fat are cooked at high temperatures, such as frying, baking, or grilling, they produce inflammatory substances called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs bind to receptors in the body (most are found in the lungs) and trigger an inflammatory response.
Asthma is the most common long-term disease in children. Asthma is a major cause of emergency room visits and hospital admissions for children. Most children develop the first symptoms before age five. Wheezing is a common sign, along with coughing and trouble breathing. Most children do not outgrow asthma. Childhood wheezing may lead to a lifetime of asthma, which has been increasing over the last few decades. Recent studies have linked childhood asthma to cow’s milk in infancy.
Researchers from Mount Sinai have uncovered more evidence that your child’s early diet can have a major impact on the risk for wheezing and asthma. AGEs are more prominent in the American diet compared to the Mediterranean diet. The American diet is higher in red meats and saturated fats. The Mediterranean diet has less meat and more fruits and vegetables.
Using information gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the researchers reviewed diet and health information for over 4,000 children ages 2 to 17. Their findings are published in the journal Thorax. These were the key results:
- Compared to other children, children with diets higher in AGEs had a 26 percent higher risk of wheezing that interferes with sleep, a 34 percent higher risk of wheezing that disrupts exercise, and a 35 percent higher risk of wheezing requiring a prescription.
- Compared to other children, children with diets higher in non-seafood meats had a 32 percent higher risk of wheezing that interferes with sleep and 23 percent higher risk of needing a prescription for wheezing.
Although this type of review cannot prove that meat consumption or AGEs cause wheezing, it is a good idea to reduce AGEs in your child’s diet, especially if you have a family history of asthma. Some tips for avoiding AGEs:
- Feed your child more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Reduce animal meats other than seafood.
- If you cook meat, marinate before cooking in wine, vinegar, or lemon juice. These acidic marinates will inhibit AGEs.
- When you cook meats, think low and slow. High and dry heat release much more AGEs.
- Consider cooking methods like microwaving, poaching, stewing, and steaming. Limit grilling, roasting, frying, and broiling.
- Although animal meats are the highest for AGEs, other sources include fried eggs, butter, cream cheese, mayonnaise and any fried or highly processed foods.
Lowering AGEs is not just good for your child. It is good for the whole family. Inflammation from AGEs has been linked to a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes.