Malaysian article teaches readers about AGEs

stack of toastAGE-related articles have been popping up in the media in countries all over the world lately, and now Malaysia can be added to that list.

The Star Online recently featured an article about advanced glycation end-products titled “Beware the Maillard baddies,” which was written by Chris Chan.

The Star is Malaysia’s second-largest English newspaper and has a daily circulation of nearly 300,000. Meanwhile, its website – The Star Online – is among the most popular news sites in the country.

The “Maillard baddies” the article referred to are foods that are products of the Maillard reaction. This reaction takes place when food is fried, grilled, baked or toasted, producing a darkening effect. Examples of this are when bread is baked or toasted, or meat is charred on a grill.

Chan wrote that there is a downside to the Maillard reaction:

“Chemically, the Maillard reaction is called glycation – the actual name of the process when reducing sugars react with amino acids. Basically, the end result of glycation is a bunch of Advanced Glycation End products or AGE (or AGEs) for short. The problem is that some of these AGE compounds are unstable and therefore somewhat reactive and they can affect the cells and tissues in our body.

An accumulation of AGEs over time can and will damage our cells, especially the protein cells.

That is why muscles stiffen with age, eyes lose their ability to focus and skin loses its flexibility.

AGEs have also been identified as one of the significant factors behind diabetes, brain damage and heart disease, among other illnesses.”

The article noted that AGEs in food can also lead to cell inflammation, cataracts, accelerated aging and more.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to reduce AGEs in our diet. For example, Chan recommended making your own sauces using fresh ingredients, instead of using canned or bottled products.

Some of Chan’s other tips include avoiding the following: cooking food at too high a temperature or for too long, flipping meat too often when cooking it, and chopping up vegetables too finely before cooking them (smaller pieces have less moisture and thus burn more easily). He wrote:

“Food that is burnt and crispy will have far more AGEs because the extended or high cooking heat will have caused more chemicals to react.

So it’s not such a great idea to eat burnt toast or the black bits around a hunk of char siew [barbecued pork] or the charred bits on sticks of satay [skewered meat].”

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