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Cooked meat linked to risk of wheeze in children

By Nicole MacKee
Consumption of inflammatory compounds found in cooked meats may increase the risk of wheeze in children, researchers have reported in Thorax.

An analysis of the data of 4388 children (aged 2 to 17 years) from the US National Health and Nutrition Survey identified a link between dietary intake of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and an increased risk of respiratory symptoms.

The researchers found that higher AGE intake was associated and an increased risk of wheezing (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.18), wheeze-disrupted sleep (AOR, 1.26), wheeze-disrupted exercise (AOR, 1.34) and wheezing requiring prescription medication (AOR, 1.35). They also found that higher intake of non-seafood meats was associated with wheeze-disrupted sleep (AOR, 2.32) and wheezing requiring prescription medication (AOR, 2.23).

Professor Merlin Thomas, endocrinologist and clinician-scientist at Monash University, Melbourne, said the manner in which meat was cooked was a key factor in the generation of AGEs.

‘Food that is cooked at high temperatures especially in the absence of water (e.g. frying, baking, toasting and broiling) generates reactive intermediates that modify the chemistry of the diet. These modifications are called AGEs. A highly processed diet is usually also high in AGEs,’ Professor Thomas said. ‘Several studies have linked processed foods to asthma. One of the mediators may be the AGEs being consumed.’

The study authors pointed to emerging evidence that it was the interaction of AGEs with the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) as the possible mechanism behind the association.

Professor Thomas, who is also Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at RAGE Biotech, said RAGE was clearly implicated in the development and progression of lung diseases including asthma.

‘RAGE is usually activated by proteins called calgranulins released from activated inflammatory cells. But RAGE can also be activated by AGEs. In this way, diet and smoking, which are sources of exogenous AGEs, can kindle an inflammatory process and make it more likely it catches fire,’ he said.

Professor Thomas said changing the way in which meat was cooked could help to mitigate the risks associated with AGEs.

‘High temperature cooking generates AGEs that may play a role in exacerbating the lung disease in some individuals. Sausages do not need to be blackened on a barbecue to be tasty,’ he said, noting that highly processed foods like chips and biscuits also had high AGE levels and should be limited. ‘The best solution is aiming to eat more fresh, unprocessed food and cook using techniques that use water and low heat.’

RAGE Biotech, which was formed last year with the support of the IP Group, Monash University and The University of WA, is seeking to develop novel therapies to tackle chronic inflammatory lung disease.

Professor Thomas said the company was developing an inhaler not only to block activation of RAGE but also to turn it into an anti-inflammatory signal.

‘So, when an asthma attack occurs, the circuit will suppress, instead of enhance, inflammation,’ he said.
Thorax 2020; 0: 1-3; doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-216109.