In the recent years, longevity and wellness have become the focus of so much health information. Within the wellness world, you may have heard talk in the media or other information sources about “AGEs” causing you to age more quickly. Of course, if there’s really a way to avoid or delay aging, I want you to understand it!
What are AGEs?
“AGEs” stands for Advanced Glycation End-products. Let’s break this down.
Glycation is the term given for when a sugar attaches to a fat, protein or nucleotide (component that makes up our DNA) within the body.2 The glycation process results in cross linked proteins, which are strong bonds that are difficult to break down with heat, enzymes or other metabolic processes.
This harmful process happens naturally at low levels and is an inherent part of aging that our body can handle, but it also can be substantially increased to a dangerous level through the diet. 3
The good news is that we have full control over what we eat.
So what is the problem with AGEs? Do they really cause damage?
High levels of AGEs are correlated with many disease conditions and several causes of aging and morbidity.4
Some conditions associated with AGEs include:
- Atherosclerosis (a disease involving plaque in the arteries)6
- Alzheimer’s disease6
- Bone loss5
- Kidney disease7
- Parkinson’s disease6
- Dental health7
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome7
- Hormone issues7
- Heart disease8
I don’t have any of those conditions. Do AGEs still matter for me?
Yes! It is possible to have subclinical conditions where perhaps your current biomarkers don’t warrant a disease state but there could be a proverbial storm brewing.
Here is why this issue should matter to EVERYONE, young and old at every level of health: AGEs promote inflammation, oxidative stress and could even present issues for the gut microbiome, all of which can lead to ill health over time.9
Oxidative stress is when there’s an imbalance between free radicals (molecules with an extra electron) and the antioxidants that can potentially counter them. This oxidative stress can dramatically harm human health.10
The story is similar for inflammation. Although short bouts of inflammation can be protective, chronic inflammation over time is linked to many disease conditions.11 And of course you have likely heard about the many incredible benefits of having a robust, diverse and well-nourished microbiome that has many implications for positive health.12
Where do AGEs come from?
Perhaps the most common cause of AGEs is from cooking with high heat, including roasting, frying, toasting, grilling and baking.7 The high-heat cooking creates a Mailard reaction (the browning/grill marks that you see on cooked foods). This can happen with any food cooked at high temperatures, but animal products are even more susceptible (especially meat, cheese and eggs).
Just as one example, the AGEs in a serving of boiled white potato is 17… Take that same potato and make it into French fries and the AGEs level goes up to 694!13 (PS– And a piece of roasted chicken is 5975)!13
What can you do to reduce AGEs?
Don’t worry! We are never without hope. Thanks to what we know from epigenetics (the science of controlling your gene expression through your thinking, choices and environment), we know that there are always things that we can do to regain control of our health.
Here are some simple steps to reduce your AGEs:
- Eat more plants (and fewer animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs).
- Eat more whole foods. (Reduce the number of processed foods that you consume.)14
- Eat your foods raw, steamed or lightly boiled rather than using high heat13
- Exercise 3-5 days/week for 20-60 minutes.13
- Drink (or supplement with) green tea.14
The bottom line:
If you want to age slowly, gracefully and with vitality, reducing AGEs through dietary upgrades and positive lifestyle changes is an important aspect to consider. It’s never too late or too early to start. Every step counts!
1. Braxmeier H. Burnt Bratwurst. https://pixabay.com/photos/bratwurst-burnt-black-burned-1194877/. Accessed November 19, 2020.
2. Fournet M, Bonté F, Desmoulière A. Glycation damage: A possible hub for major pathophysiological disorders and aging. Aging Dis. 2018. doi:10.14336/AD.2017.1121
3. Chaudhuri J, Bains Y, Guha S, et al. The Role of Advanced Glycation End Products in Aging and Metabolic Diseases: Bridging Association and Causality. Cell Metab. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2018.08.014
4. Rowan S, Bejarano E, Taylor A. Mechanistic targeting of advanced glycation end-products in age-related diseases. Biochim Biophys Acta – Mol Basis Dis. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2018.08.036
5. Yamamoto M, Sugimoto T. Advanced Glycation End Products, Diabetes, and Bone Strength. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2016. doi:10.1007/s11914-016-0332-1
6. Byun K, Yoo YC, Son M, et al. Advanced glycation end-products produced systemically and by macrophages: A common contributor to inflammation and degenerative diseases. Pharmacol Ther. 2017. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2017.02.030
7. Gill V, Kumar V, Singh K, Kumar A, Kim JJ. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) may be a striking link between modern diet and health. Biomolecules. 2019. doi:10.3390/biom9120888
8. Fishman SL, Sonmez H, Basman C, Singh V, Poretsky L. The role of advanced glycation end-products in the development of coronary artery disease in patients with and without diabetes mellitus: A review. Mol Med. 2018. doi:10.1186/s10020-018-0060-3
9. Snelson M, Coughlan MT. Dietary advanced glycation end products: Digestion, metabolism and modulation of gut microbial ecology. Nutrients. 2019. doi:10.3390/nu11020215
10. Pizzino G, Irrera N, Cucinotta M, et al. Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/8416763
11. Furman D, Campisi J, Verdin E, et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. 2019. doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0
12. Klimenko NS, Tyakht A V., Popenko AS, et al. Microbiome responses to an uncontrolled short-term diet intervention in the frame of the citizen science project. Nutrients. 2018. doi:10.3390/nu10050576
13. Uribarri J, del Castillo MD, de la Maza MP, et al. Dietary advanced glycation end products and their role in health and disease. Adv Nutr. 2015. doi:10.3945/an.115.008433
14. Sharma C, Kaur A, Thind SS, Singh B, Raina S. Advanced glycation End-products (AGEs): an emerging concern for processed food industries. J Food Sci Technol. 2015. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-1851-y