Perhaps you’ve already heard how meat and dairy consumption has been linked to a number of health problems. Now, new findings provide further reason to put down your knife and pick up your fork (i.e. eat less meat and eat more veggies).

Here’s what the new research found, as reported by The Guardian: Protein-rich foods cooked at high temperatures may raise the risk of dementia and diabetes.

What this means: Frying, grilling, pasteurizing or smoking animal products raises the level of harmful compounds found in our blood and makes people more likely to develop mental problems and insulin resistance, which precedes diabetes.

These compounds are proteins that are called AGEs (or advanced glycation end products). When in the presence of sugars, they go through a process that makes cells stiffer and age faster — which is not desirable if you want to stay healthy!

These compounds have already been linked to diabetes and inflammation. And while AGEs do exist in small amounts in the body, they are abundant in meat and dairy products — especially when these foods are cooked at high temperatures.

More about the study

As the U.S. scientists found, both humans and mice with high AGE levels were more likely to develop problems with memory and mental processes. Also, individuals with high AGE levels were more likely to develop insulin resistance, and mice fed a diet high in AGE (like our Western diet) were found to have higher levels of plaques in the brain — an indicator of Alzheimer’s.

Researcher Helen Vlassara of the Icahn School of Medicine of Mount Sinai calls the findings “very promising,” but says it still needs to be determined whether cutting down on glycotoxins can prevent or reverse dementia.”

What this news means for you

Researchers say more research is needed, but people should avoid cooking meats in very high, dry heat.

“People will grill bacon and fry eggs for breakfast or have a toasted bagel or muffin. But they could boil or poach the eggs and have fresh bread. With meat, we recommend stewing and boiling, making sauces instead of exposing meat to very high dry heat,” Vlassara said.

So what is the best way to protect your brain and body as you age? Regular exercise, not smoking and following a healthy (plant-based) diet. But yeah, you already knew that, right?

Image Source: Nicolas Marchildon/Flickr