Grilling Steaks, Chops Used To Be Fun

The Bigger Picture

New research shows chemicals created by some cooking methods may add to the waistline.

Published on: June 14, 2013
 

Grilling season is about to hit its peak. And what’s more fun than pulling that sizzling steak or pork chop off the grill? Perfect grill marks and the aroma make ones’ mouth water.

But, as my father-in-law used to opine “nothing good ever lasts”.

A Purdue University professor of Food Science says the chemicals contained in charred, seared and fried foods may over a period of time kick-start the body’s ability to add new fat cells and increase the risk of age-related diseases.  According to Kee-Hong Kim, the human body shuts down the ability of young fat cells to mature and accumulate lipids over time. But grilling, searing and frying create glycated proteins which result from proteins chemically bonding with sugar.

 'When you put proteins and sugars together at high temperatures, there is a chemical reaction, and that creates flavor and texture, which we think of as good things,' says Kim. 'Research suggests that these glycated proteins are involved in age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease.'

As if I didn’t already have enough problems with my waistline! I always thought lean meat was good in a diet.

Kim says he wanted to see whether glycated proteins affect the speed at which precursor, or immature, fat cells turn into mature fat cells. Using a cell culture, Kim saw no change in how quickly those immature cells accumulated lipids, which is stored as fat in cells, but he did notice something else.

'Older animals don’t generally accumulate new fat cells. Those precursor cells lose their ability to become mature as we age,' says Kim. 'But when exposed to glycated proteins, immature fat cells started to differentiate and accumulate lipids like they would in a younger animal. When we continuously consume glycated proteins we might turn on the ability of precursor cells to mature,' notes Kim.

After reading that I have to wonder -- if older 'animals' don’t accumulate new fat cells, why am I struggling with a growing waistline?

Moving on, Kim is investigating the relationship between obesity and a number of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. He believes glycated proteins may be a factor in some of those diseases.

'It’s not immediately toxic, but if you’re exposed over a long period of time, some portions of the glycated materials accumulate in the cells or tissues, and that contributes to inflammation and oxidative stress,' Kim says.

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