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
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
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
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
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
Oxidative stress is also recognized as a leading cause of
chronic disease and aging, and has been linked to the following
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
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
Limit your intake of processed foods, which are often
pasteurized at high temperatures.
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of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, April 2007, 62:427-433
of the National Academy of Sciences 2002 Nov 26;99(24):15596-601.
State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition