Advanced Glycation End Products By Lori Zanteson
Vol. 16 No. 3 P. 10
It’s well-known that overeating and obesity can lead to insulin resistance, triggered by chronically elevated oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Recent evidence has found that excessive consumption of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), harmful compounds that stem from cooking foods at high temperatures and accumulate in the body as people age, are a major cause of this inflammation that can increase the risk of disease.
Dietary interventions that reduce the consumption of foods high in AGEs, which are common in the standard Western diet, can be effective in helping prevent these metabolic disorders.
AGEs naturally form inside the body when proteins or fats combine with sugars (glycation). This affects the normal function of cells, making them more susceptible to damage and premature aging. AGEs are particularly high in animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein, such as meats (especially red meats), which are prone to AGE formation through cooking. Sugary foods and highly processed and prepackaged products also are high in AGEs. Cooking methods that use high temperatures to brown or char foods, such as grilling, roasting, and broiling have the largest impact on the amount of AGEs consumed.
The body naturally rids itself of harmful AGE compounds, but it doesn’t eliminate them effectively when too many are ingested through food. All of the body’s cells are affected by the accumulation of AGEs, which not only have been linked to aging but also the development or worsening of many chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular, liver, and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Dr. Feng recommends that most effective way to reduce intake of foods high in AGEs is to switch to a plant-based diet and modify your cooking methods. Water based cooking methods, such as boiling, stewing, poaching and steaming, reduce AGEs consumed. Eating more vegetables and fruits is another way to reduce AGE consumption. Baird stresses the importance of dietary phytonutrients, which are found in the pigments of various colorful fruits and vegetables. One type of phytonutrient in particular, called iridoids, which are found in deeply colored blueberries, cranberries, and noni fruit, can lower AGEs in the body, she says.
In addition, people who are sleep deprived have higher circulating AGEs, Baird says. Sleep is the time when the body does most of its tissue growth and repair, making it better able to defend itself against AGEs. Sleep, daily activity, and stress reduction play important roles, along with diet, to reduce AGEs.
While most dietitians understand this, Baird says, the new research may not be so familiar. The AGE Foundation website (http://agefoundation.com) is an ideal source to bring dietitians up-to-date on the most current research, complete with background information, resources, and FAQs.
— Lori Zanteson is a food, nutrition, and health writer based in southern California.