You May Be Prematurely Aging: Due To Your AGEs
by Robert Lamberton, B.Sc.
This is the second in a series of articles designed to provide important information about key metabolic processes that are really important to understand for optimizing our quality of life – and yet almost no one in the general public has any awareness of them at all.
The first article addressed methylation: an important biochemical process in our bodies that is important for many health issues. Here is a link to the article.
This article addresses another very important metabolic process:
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
What exactly are Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)?
Here is a great description of what AGEs are:
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are basically the nasty by-products of glucose metabolism. The typical Western Diet, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, too much fat, and insulin resistance, leaves our bodies churning out excess glucose and unable to burn it. It stays in our blood stream too long and there it does incredible damage.
One of the most damaging aspects of incomplete or un-burned glucose are the Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs); these include visible structures, such as “liver spots” on the skin, to accumulated wastes in various tissues that interfere with normal metabolic processes on the cellular level; these lead to inflammation, one of our sworn arch-enemies.
Advanced Glycation End Products are formed when glucose (sugar), reacts with proteins.
The result is a hard, “caramel-like” compound that interferes with multiple cell functions by changing the functions of proteins.
For example in blood vessels cross-linking occurs between adjacent protein strands and causes the blood vessels to become stiff.(1)
A good analogy is thinking about what happens to meat when you cook it on your barbecue: compared to meat in its raw state, it changes when you barbeque it and becomes tough and fibrous.
This is basically what happens in your body when AGEs are produced.
And you may be familiar with what is referred to as “liver spots”–i.e., dark blotches on the skin-these are visible signs of AGEs.
What does the medical literature say about AGEs?
A meta-analysis published in 2010 in the Journals of Gerontology, had this to say about the effects of AGEs on human health:
Humans are exposed to AGEs produced in the body, especially in individuals with abnormal glucose metabolism, and AGEs ingested in foods. AGEs cause widespread damage to tissues through upregulation of inflammation and cross-linking of collagen and other proteins. AGEs have been shown to adversely affect virtually all cells, tissues, and organ systems. Recent epidemiological studies demonstrate that elevated circulating AGEs are associated with increased risk of developing many chronic diseases that disproportionally affect older individuals.
Based on this data, we propose that the accumulation of AGEs accelerate the multi-system functional decline that occurs with aging, and therefore contribute to the aging phenotype. Exposure to AGEs can be reduced by the restriction of dietary intake of AGEs and drug treatment with AGE inhibitors and AGE breakers. Modification of intake and circulating levels of AGEs may be a possible strategy to promote health in old age, especially because most Western foods are processed at high temperatures and are rich in AGEs.(2)
What causes AGEs?
AGEs are the end result of a bond formed between a protein or lipid molecule with a sugar molecule without the proper enzymes being able to modulate the process. Sugar consumption is one of the key culprits in the formation of AGEs, but there are other factors which can be determined by the ways we cook our food and reduce the production of AGEs, such as:
- Minimizing grilling, frying and broiling foods
- Cooking foods for a longer period of time at lower temperatures
- Using fluids in your cooking such as steaming, boiling, and crock pots
- Avoiding eating charred portions of meats and limiting the consumption of processed foods
- Avoiding high fructose corn syrup
- Avoiding browned foods
Also reducing your consumption of sugar, drinking lots of water to stay hydrated, and stopping smoking will also reduce the production of AGEs.
Health Issues Related to AGEs
Inflammation and oxidative stress are two key factors which result from the formation of AGEs, and as such, health issues such as the following, can be caused and/or exacerbated by AGEs:
- Heart disease, hypertension, atherosclerosis
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Kidney diseases
- Skin conditions
- GI tract conditions (such as IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s etc.)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Wrinkles (well maybe not a health issue per se, but important to many people!)
Supplements You Can Take to Reduce AGEs
There are a number of nutritional supplements/medicinal herbs you can consume which will help to minimize AGEs:
- Benfotiamine, (a form of thiamine)
- Flavonoids such as quercetin, rutin and EGCG (one of the active ingredients in green tea)
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Pyridoxamine, (a form of vitamin B6)
A good reference website for further information on AGE’s is the AGE Foundation website.
As always, eating a healthy diet focusing on ancestral patterns, such as lots of vegetables and some fruits (we don’t want to consume too much sugar!), organic as much as possible, good quality protein (grass fed beef, wild fish, organic chicken), healthy fats (such as cold pressed olive oil, hemp oil and coconut oil), some fresh (vs. rancid) nuts, minimizing sugar, trans-fats and processed foods, and cutting back or eliminating wheat (ancient grains are preferable), paying attention to how food is cooked, having access to clean uncontaminated water is a good foundation for optimizing health – and helping to prevent the accumulation of AGEs.
- Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) (n.d.).
(2) J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010 September; 65A(9): 963–975,