Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are molecules that form when sugar molecules bind to proteins and lipids in the body. This process is called glycation.
While glycation is a normal part of aging, it is far from desirable. AGEs contribute to cataracts, atherosclerosis, kidney failure, and even wrinkles and are implicated in the development of various diseases.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes, as well as specific nutrients, may counteract the process of AGE formation and thus help to slow the aging process.
AGEs Increase the Risk of CancerAdvanced glycation end products also occur in the food that we eat — particularly foods cooked at higher temperatures. Glycation (or “browning”) reactions occur as proteins combine with the sugars present. For this reason, the standard Western diet contains more AGEs than are considered healthy.
A study published in 2012 uncovered an increased risk of prostate cancer among men who ate well-done fish, by either pan-frying, oven-broiling, or grilling.1 Men who ate fish cooked at a low temperature experienced no greater risk.
A year earlier, researchers from UCLA reported an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer in men who consumed higher amounts of hamburgers, grilled red meat, processed meat, and well-done meat.2
AGEs are Linked to Alzheimer’s DiseaseNew research indicates that AGEs may be involved in the accumulation of amyloids, the brain plaques that characterize Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, recently found a high level of AGEs, as well as amyloid-beta deposits, in the brains of mice given a diet high in AGEs.3 The adverse changes observed in the study did not occur in mice given a diet low in AGEs.
How to Combat AGEs with Nutritional SupplementsCutting down on meat is one way to reduce the risks associated with AGEs. Another way to reduce AGEs in the body is by consuming specific nutrients.
Benfotiamine (a form of vitamin B1), pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (a form of vitamin B6), and carnosine can reduce glycation reactions that occur in the body.
Carnosine, which is found naturally in cells and in food, can interfere with glycation, as well as reduce the formation of damaging reactive oxygen species. It’s composed of two amino acids, beta-alanine and L-histidine.
AGEs Put Diabetics at Increased RiskSince glycation is more prevalent in diabetics, it is recommended that diabetics undergo regular testing for hemoglobin A1c. While the test is a good marker of long-term blood glucose control in diabetics, it also provides a valuable assessment of glycation for healthy men and women.
Keeping blood sugar under control is one way to reduce glycation in the body. For most people, this involves eating right and exercising, but for diabetics, specific medications may be required.
The Bottom LineAGEs can accelerate the aging process and may contribute to a number of health problems and diseases. Fortunately, by adjusting your cooking methods, eating less sugar, and supplementing with the right nutrients, you can minimize your risk. As always, prevention is the best medicine of all. Surprised?
- Cancer Causes Control. 2012 Mar;23(3):405-20.
- Nutr Cancer. 2011 63(4):525-37.
- Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014 Feb.
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