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AGE Issues: Why You Want to Reduce "Advanced
Glycation End" Foods in Your Diet

When you eat too much sugar, your blood glucose becomes elevated, leading to a host of problems. Among them, the excess sugar in your bloodstream can react with proteins and lipids (fatty substances) in your body, leading to the formation of highly toxic Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs).

advanced glycation end products

High-fat, high-protein foods that are fried are among the worst foods you can eat from an AGE perspective.

Although AGEs are formed constantly in your body even under normal circumstances (and accumulate with time), when there is extra glucose available in your bloodstream (which is the case if you have diabetes) it significantly accelerates AGE formation.

This, researchers believe, is a key reason why diabetics are at a high risk of nerve, artery and kidney damage -- because the high blood sugar levels in their bodies significantly accelerate the formation of AGEs.

AGEs are not only formed inside of your body, however; they're also created in certain foods, particularly those that are cooked at high temperatures. A similar chemical reaction occurs between proteins and sugars in foods as occurs in your body. This process leads to the formation of toxic Maillard products, which you can recognize by the browned areas on fried, grilled or broiled meats and cheeses.

The Problem With AGEs

In your body, AGEs wreak havoc. They cause inflammation and oxidative stress, and contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis, particularly among people with diabetes.

AGEs have also been associated with a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and renal disease.

But just the fact that AGEs causes both inflammation and oxidative stress is extremely alarming. Inflammation is associated with a host of diseases like crohn's disease, colitis and arthritis, and many of them are life threatening. Here is just a few ways that chronic inflammation can affect your organs:

  • Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis): Shortness of breath or fluid retention

  • Inflammation of the small tubes that transport air to the lungs: Asthma attack

  • Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis): High blood pressure or kidney failure

  • Inflammation of the large intestine (colitis): Cramps and diarrhea

Oxidative stress is also recognized as a leading cause of chronic disease and aging, and has been linked to the following diseases:

  • Heart disease

  • Hypertension

  • Cancer

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

  • Asthma

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Arthritis

  • Diabetes

  • Alzheimer's disease

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Huntington's disease

  • Lou Gehrig's disease

  • Autism

  • Stroke

So clearly, avoiding anything that leads to these two major sources of disease is to your advantage.

AGEs in Your Diet: Why They're Dangerous and How to Avoid Them

When grilling, you can reduce the amount of AGEs in your food by using an acidic marinade that contains lemon juice or vinegar.

Heating foods at high temperatures increases the production of AGEs in your food, and eating heat-treated foods readily transfers AGEs to your body. According to research from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 10 percent of AGEs in food are absorbed by your body (where they remain for a long time). In short, the more AGE-rich food you eat, the higher your levels of AGEs will be.

Foods that are high in AGEs are those that are grilled, fried, broiled, roasted, pasteurized or sterilized. Any food that is "browned," particularly high-fat, high-protein food, is also likely to be high in AGEs.

Studies have shown that eating a low-AGE diet can reduce levels of inflammation, and chronic disease, in your body.

For instance, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people with diabetes who consumed foods cooked at lower temperatures (which therefore had fewer AGEs) had lower levels of AGEs and inflammatory proteins than those who ate the same amount of food cooked at higher temperatures.

In fact, among those who at the high-temp food, blood levels of AGEs rose by almost 65 percent after two weeks while levels dropped by 30 percent in those who ate the low-temp foods.

After six weeks, the results were even more telling. Those who ate the high-temp foods had increased levels of two indicators of inflammation, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and C-reactive protein. The levels of both these indicators decreased among those who ate the low-temp foods, however.

Further, to quote a 2007 study published in the Journal of Gerontology, "Reduced consumption of these oxidants [AGEs] may prove a safe economic policy to prevent age-related diseases, especially in an aging population."

What can you do to reduce high-AGE foods in your diet? A number of things, such as:

  • Limit the amount of grilled, fried, or broiled foods in your diet

  • Use "wet" cooking methods, such as stewing, boiling, braising, crock pot or steaming, often because dry-heat cooking methods create more AGEs than moist ones.

  • When you do grill, use acidic marinades including lemon juice and vinegar, which are thought to help to fight AGEs. Also, trim the fat off the meat beforehand.

  • Don't eat the browned or charred portions of cooked meats and cheeses.

  • Limit your intake of processed foods, which are often pasteurized at high temperatures.

Recommended Reading

What are Salicylates? Could Salicylates be Zapping Your Energy and Making You Feel Ill?

Will Edible Coatings Soon Replace Plastic, Cardboard and Glass Packaging on Your Foods?


Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, April 2007, 62:427-433

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2002 Nov 26;99(24):15596-601.

Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

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