“Crusty” Foods May Worsen Heart Problems for Diabetics

By Sandy Todd Webster
Dec 13, 2012

So you’ve perfected the art of searing meat with the type of caramelized crust that makes television chefs wax poetic. But, alas, according to recent research it turns out that the tasty layer of crust on your food and the beautiful brown bits in the bottom of the pan may worsen heart problems associated with diabetes.

Research from the University of Illinois suggests that people with diabetes or with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease should avoid cooking techniques that produce the kind of crusty bits you’d find on a grilled hamburger. “We see evidence that cooking methods that create a crust—think the edge of a brownie or the crispy borders of meats prepared at very high temperatures—produce advanced glycation end products (AGEs). And AGEs are associated with plaque formation, the kind we see in cardiovascular disease,” said Karen Marie Chapman-Novakofski, PhD, RD, LD, nutrition professor at the university.

What about the years of advice diabetics have received from nutrition experts about avoiding fried preparations and instead baking, broiling or grilling their food? “That’s still true,” Chapman-Novakofski added, “but if you have diabetes, you should know that AGEs—byproducts of food preparation methods that feature very high, intense, dry heat—tend to end up on other tissues in the body, causing long-term damage.”

If you’re fighting this vascular buildup anyway, consuming products containing AGEs could worsen the cardiovascular complications of diabetes, the professor warns.

More research is needed before definite recommendations can be made, said the study authors. They are planning more research in which they’ll examine the past AGEs intake of diabetes patients.

“These findings are preliminary, but they give us ample reason to further explore the association between AGEs and cardiovascular risk among people with diabetes,” Chapman-Novakofski noted.

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Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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