BBQ can char your brain

Spring is here and that means BBQ season is just around the corner.

But if you're the type that likes to char a steak, blacken a swordfish or cook a burger until it's the color (and texture) of a hockey puck, I've got a new warning you have to see.

And it just might have you turning the heat down a notch or two.

Those crispy blackened spots that coat grilled, fried and broiled foods that so many people treasure are actually loaded with a dangerous chemical compound called advanced glycation end products.

They're known as AGEs for short, which is a pretty appropriate nickname because that's what they do to you on the inside.

They AGE you, increasing your risk of all the diseases that come with age, and new research links the AGEs in grilled and charred meats to one of the worst "senior" diseases of all: dementia.

In the first part of the study, mice given loads of AGEs in their diet developed beta-amyloid buildups in the brain. Those are the notorious "plaques" seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

And sure enough, as the plaques appeared, the mice began to suffer from problems with memory and even movement.

Mice given regular food, on the other hand, didn't.

If the study ended there, I'd call it interesting, but maybe not a solid link between charred meats and dementia.

After all, we're men -- not mice.

But the study didn't end there. Next, 93 seniors were tested for signs of advanced glycation end products in the blood and tracked for 9 months. And in that time, those who had the highest levels of AGEs were the ones most likely to suffer bigger dips in cognitive function, according to the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That's not all the advanced glycation end products in burned foods can do to you, either. They've also been linked to cancer -- so maybe the best way to cook your foods is gently and lightly, sautéed in a little olive oil or even steamed.

And if you do fire up the grill, cook your food low and slow so it reaches the right temperature without developing those nasty AGE spots.

But I'm not here to take all the pleasure out of eating. Coming up next: A "forbidden" food that shouldn't be forbidden at all.

Keep reading!