Yet another reason to avoid bacon

Everybody loves bacon- fatty, salty, crispy – what more could you ask for in a food?

We are all waiting for that study to be published that endorses bacon consumption – to lose weight, to lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes? Unfortunately, I do not think that is going to happen – ever.

There is a growing body of evidence about a new threat to our diet: AGEs (Advanced Glycation End products).  And top of the list of foods to avoid: bacon, with an amazing 91, 577 AGEs for 2 slices.

Most of us have not heard about AGEs for two reasons: one, you need a biochemistry degree to understand any of the research papers and two, it presents another reason why you shouldn’t eat all your favourite foods. AGEs are compounds that can be disease-causing at high levels by promoting oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

For example, AGEs are thought to be involved in the hardening of your arteries. In people with diabetes, who already produce more AGEs than others, they speed up progression of micro- and macrovascular complications (of the heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves).

A significant portion of AGEs are absorbed from the foods we eat – mostly in animal-derived products and high fat foods like beef, cheese, poultry, pork, fish, eggs, butter, margarine and oils.

Cooking method also plays a role. Dry heat methods (barbecue, broiling, baking, roasting) creates more AGEs than wet methods (boiling, steaming, poaching, microwaving and stewing). Marinating meat with an acidic ingredient (lemon juice, vinegar…) prior to cooking also reduces formation of AGEs. To give an example, a raw chicken breast has 769 AGEs, poached with lemon has 957 AGEs and oven-fried with skin has 9,961 AGEs. Not surprisingly, grains, legumes, fruits vegetables and low-fat milk were the lowest in AGEs. In animal studies, reducing dietary AGE by 50 per cent of usual intake was associated with reduced levels of oxidative stress, less deterioration of insulin sensitivity and kidney function with age, and longer life span.

Take home message: to cut down on dietary AGEs eat more legumes, low-fat milk products, vegetables, fruits and whole grains and less bacon. Poaching, stewing, steaming, boiling and marinating meat will also reduce dietary AGEs.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.


Salmon Arm Observer