What are Advanced Glycation End Products or AGES?
When sugar undergoes glycation—which is to say that it bonds with a fat or protein—it forms something called advanced glycogen end products or AGEs. AGEs have been found contribute to inflammation and degenerative conditions quite similar to those associated with the aging process. So maybe it is not such a coincidence that these products are abbreviated AGEs!
Glycation is a normal part of our metabolism so our body is designed to eliminate its end products. It is only when glycation happens at excessively high rates that we start to have trouble. How, exactly? The problem with glycation is that it alters proteins so they are unable to perform their job. With too many altered proteins, we start to lose function.
Additionally, glycated proteins tend to clump together, a formation that can lead to cardiovascular issues, eye problems, and many of the same types of issues that diabetics commonly experience. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that diabetics age faster than those without blood sugar issues and have high HA1C values.
Where are AGES found?
AGES are found naturally in food. AGE production is often increased with certain methods of cooking: grilling, broiling, roasting, searing, and frying. Essentially, anything that has been browned or charred indicates that AGEs have formed. The Journal of American Dietetic Association lists the AGE content of 549 foods and the effects of processing them here.
Additionally, high blood sugar and things that cause a lot of oxidative damage to fats and proteins such as smoking, inflammation, free radical damage, etc. promote the production of AGES.
All of this contributes to the body’s overall AGE pool.
Are there any symptoms of increased AGE load?
When the AGE pool becomes excessive, we my start to notice symptoms. According to Dr. Kharrazian, PhD, the following may be noted..
- Symptoms and signs of diabetes
- Chronic pain
- Muscle fatigue
- Inability to recover from workouts
- Significant cognitive decline
HA1C levels greater than 7% may provide an indirect measure of high glycation status.
How do continued high levels of AGES affect our health?
Unfortunately, over time, AGES attach to receptors (RAGES) to initiate an inflammatory response. A paper titled “Advanced glycation end products and RAGE: a common thread in aging, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and inflammation” sums it up well.
AGEs may be generated rapidly or over long times stimulated by a range of distinct triggering mechanisms, thereby accounting for their roles in multiple settings and disease states.
A critical property of AGEs is their ability to activate receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE), a signal transduction receptor of the immunoglobulin superfamily. It is our hypothesis that due to such interaction, AGEs impart a potent impact in tissues, stimulating processes linked to inflammation and its consequences.
We hypothesize that AGEs cause perturbation in a diverse group of diseases, such as diabetes, inflammation, neurodegeneration, and aging. Thus, we propose that targeting this pathway may represent a logical step in the prevention/treatment of the sequelae of these disorders.
How can we minimize AGES?
There is no recommended daily value for AGE consumption but obviously less is better. You might also want to consider these recommendations:
- Consume a high vegetable diet rich in antioxidants or taking antioxidant supplements (or work to improve glutathione status)
- Do not eat an excessive amount of animal products high in fat and protein (or stick to grass-fed animals that are truly free-range)
- Use the lowest possible temperature for cooking and do not overcook your food
- Choose moist heat over dry heat
- Do not eat foods that have been charred
- Use a slow cooker for meats
- Use acidic ingredients such as lemon or vinegar to help minimize AGE formation
- Jill Nussinow, MS and RDN (a.k.a. “The Veggie Queen”) and author of The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Book, believes that pressure cooking may help reduce AGEs.
It is all about balance—we don’t want to minimize eating good, healthy foods just because they can possibly glycate. Instead we try to minimally process food and avoid the consumption burned and overcooked foods.
How should we cook to reduce AGES?
Let’s take eggs as an example. A poached egg is rated 90, an egg scrambled with olive oil on high heat is 243, when fried, the same egg soars to 2,749.
Fried bacon was found to be the number-one culprit at 91,577.
The method of cooking should be carefully considered for each type of food. “For example, the high AGE content of broiled chicken (5,828 kU/100 g) and broiled beef (5,963 kU/100 g) can be significantly reduced (1,124 kU/100 g and 2,230 kU/100 g, respectively) when the same piece of meat is either boiled or stewed. The use of acidic marinades, such as lemon juice and vinegar, before cooking can also be encouraged to limit AGE generation.“