WHAT ARE AGEs?
AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products) are harmful compounds that form when excess protein and sugar bind together. These compounds prematurely age our bodies and have been linked to many different serious health concerns. Some experts believe that our AGE levels should be a medical marker just like how blood pressure, body mass index and blood sugar are.
AGEs are a product of a person’s lifestyle and habits. The foods we eat, the amount of sleep we get, the stress we experience, and the level of exercise we take part in all help determine our AGE levels. Even smoking contributes to AGE development.
The negative effects of AGEs have been validated in many different scientific studies over a span of many years (a few of which can be seen here).
WHERE DO AGEs COME FROM?
AGEs form both endogenously (inside the body), and exogenously (outside the body).
AGEs are formed naturally inside our bodies when excess sugar and protein combine, and can also be ingested from the foods we eat. Foods that are high in AGEs include fried, processed, or sugary foods. Animal meats, especially red meats, are also high in AGEs. They also form inside our bodies depending on our lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the major contributors to high AGE levels, whereas regular exercise and physical activity helps reduce the amount of AGEs in our body. High levels of stress and a lack of sleep also contribute to AGE development.
AGEs are also formed outside of the body, such as on food. In fact, cooking methods affect AGE levels in the foods we eat, and AGEs can be consumed. Cooking with high levels of heat or using cooking methods that brown foods – including barbecuing, grilling, frying, sauteing, broiling, searing and toasting – send the AGE content of foods skyrocketing. That browning reaction even takes place during bread baking (namely with the crust), and the production of processed foods and dark sodas.
Conversely, using water while cooking helps reduce the formation of AGEs. Moist cooking methods such as boiling, steaming, poaching, stewing or simmering are all healthier than using high, dry heat (i.e. grilling). Still, acidic marinades can suppress AGE formation by up to 50 percent when cooking meat. Also, natural foods and ingredients are lower in AGEs than processed foods. Some natural produce (such as noni fruit, blueberries, olive leaves, cranberries and cornelian cherries) even contain phytonutrients knows as iridoids, which have been shown to reduce AGE levels in the body.
HOW DO AGEs AFFECT THE BODY?
The body has natural processes to rid itself of harmful AGEs. However, when too many AGEs are consumed and created, they build up faster than the body can keep up with and begin to accumulate in body tissues. This accumulation affects our entire bodies, from the skin to the organs.
AGEs damage the collagen and elastin in our skin, leaving it wrinkled, saggy and dull. This leads to an older physical appearance.
Meanwhile, high levels of AGEs are linked to virtually every serious health concern we face today: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney function, blood sugar levels, joint health, memory function, vision impairment, inflammation, hypertension, heart disease, dementia, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis and periodontal disease. Researchers have even discovered a potential link between AGEs and cancer.
For these reasons, it is very important that people are aware of their AGE levels (which can be measured through these methods) and take the necessary steps to lower them. And if someone already has low AGE levels, it’s important to maintain them.