6 ways you’re ‘cooking up’ diabetes

I never thought twice about throwing my food on the grill, sautéing it in a pan, baking it in the oven or popping it in the broiler. That’s how I cook almost everything.

But it turns out these are riskier behaviors than I realized. They are all forms of “dry cooking,” and they may increase your risk of diabetes and prediabetes.

Now in case you don’t know what “dry cooking” is (I didn’t until recently), it’s any cooking method that uses dry heat or oil to cook your food. The most common dry cooking methods are:

  • Grilling
  • Frying
  • Baking
  • Broiling
  • Roasting
  • Sautéing

Foods cooked with dry heat have high levels of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). AGEs cause oxidative stress and inflammation. And, as a result, they’ve been linked to chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer and, most recently, diabetes and prediabetes.

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Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that obese individuals with prediabetes who avoided dry cooking had improved insulin resistance, a slightly lower body weight and less AGEs in their system at the end of their one-year study.

And, amazingly enough, cutting out dry cooking even affected their genes for the better. By the end of the study, participants who stopped dry cooking saw improvements in six key genes that regulate oxidative stress and inflammation. That’s great news for a myriad of diseases.

But this isn’t the first time these researchers have noticed a connection between dry cooking and diabetes. In a 2014 study, they confirmed that high levels of AGEs can cause prediabetes by increasing insulin resistance.

In their most recent study, researchers had participants replace dry cooking with moist cooking, which uses water or steam. Some common moist cooking methods are:

  • Poaching
  • Boiling
  • Steaming
  • Simmering
  • Stewing

I know what you’re probably thinking. All these years spent worrying about what to eat to prevent diabetes — but who knew the actual cooking method had so much to do with disease risk? Fortunately, it’s not too late to make a change.

“While food AGEs are prevalent, particularly in Western diets, our study showed that avoiding foods high in AGEs could actually reverse the damage that had been done,” said the study’s lead researcher Dr. Helen Vlassara. “This can provide us with new clinical approaches to prediabetes, potentially helping protect certain at-risk individuals from developing full diabetes and its devastating consequences.”

And the “devastating consequences” Dr. Vlassara refers to are no joke. A recent study conducted by researchers at Hospital del Mar Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain found that having diabetes increases your risk of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Not to mention the fact that it can cause nerve damage, vision loss or even cost you a limb.

Now, I know it may not be realistic to stop dry cooking completely. But cutting back on dry cooking could be an easy way to improve your health and enjoy new and different recipes at the same time. Besides embracing the art of moist cooking, you could also avoid foods that are high in AGEs like red meat, sugary foods and processed foods.

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  1. Vlassara, et al. O”ral AGE restriction ameliorates insulin resistance in obese individuals with the metabolic syndrome: a randomised controlled trial.” Diabetologia, 2016.
  2. “Cooking Methods: Learning How To Cook.” The Culinary Cook. http://theculinarycook.com. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  3. W. Poulsena “Advanced glycation endproducts in food and their effects on health.” Food and Chemical Toxicology, October 2013; 60: 10–37.
  4. M. Baena-Díez, et al. “Risk of Cause-Specific Death in Individuals With Diabetes: A Competing Risks Analysis.” Diabetes Care, Aug. 2016.
  5. “Advanced Glycation End Products.” Today’s Dietitian. http://www.todaysdietitian.com. Retrieved August 24, 2016.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.