Meat, Advanced Glycation End Products Tied to Childhood Wheeze

By Lisa Rapaport

January 25, 2021

(Reuters Health) - Children who consume higher amounts of meat and have higher levels of dietary advanced glycation end product may have an increased risk of developing wheeze, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) on 4,388 youth aged 2 to 17 years, including information on any respiratory symptoms and meat consumption frequency. They calculated dietary advanced glycation end (AGE) product exposure scores based on meat consumption, with higher scores indicating higher proportions of meat in the diet.

Overall, 537 (13%) youth in the study reported wheezing in the past year. Compared to youth with lower AGE scores, those with higher AGE scores were more likely to develop wheezing (odds ratio 1.18), at least one sleep disturbance related to wheezing (OR 1.26), wheezing during exercise (OR 1.67), and wheezing treated by prescription medication (OR 1.35).

In addition, higher non-seafood meat consumption was associated with an increased risk of wheezing requiring a prescription medication (OR 2.23), and wheezing that disrupted sleep (OR 2.32).

"AGEs are found in abundance in non-seafood meats, particularly after cooking at high temperatures, such as grilling, baking, searing or frying," said lead study author Dr. Jing Gennie Wang, of the Ohio State University in Columbus and senior study author Dr. Sonali Bose of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

"Thus, a diet higher in non-seafood meats also means increased intake of AGEs, which we showed is associated with childhood wheeze, as one potential manifestation of airways disease," Dr. Wang and Dr. Bose said in an email to Reuters Health.

While the observational study wasn't designed to determine why meat consumption or AGE exposure might directly cause wheeze, it's possible that a Western diet with high levels of AGE-rich foods, meats and saturated fats, might promote an inflammatory cascade that contributes to airway inflammation, the study team writes in Thorax.

One limitation of the study is the lack of a validated method for measuring AGE intake, the study team notes.

Even so, the findings add to a growing body of evidence linking AGE exposure to respiratory problems and the development of asthma, Jonathan Grigg of the Centre for Child Health at University of Queen Mary in London writes in an commentary accompanying the study.

"Wheeze and asthma are exacerbated by inflammation," said Dr. Augusto Litonjua, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

"While the exact mechanisms still need to be clarified, one of the pathways that is suggested by the results of this study is through activation of the receptor for AGE," Dr. Litonjua, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.

More research is needed, however, before clinicians start telling people to reduce meat intake solely to improve asthma symptoms, said Dr. Kathleen Lee-Sarwar, an allergy and immunology specialist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who wasn't involved in the study.

"That said, this study aligns with many other studies showing that meat intake, especially red meat or processed meat, is associated with a wide range of diseases and even premature mortality," Dr. Lee-Sarwar said by email. "There are already a lot of good reasons to aim for a diverse diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and this study reinforces the importance of current dietary recommendations in children with asthma."

SOURCE: and Thorax, online December 21, 2020.