Eating healthy is one of the ways in which to ward off the effects of aging for as long as possible. Towards that goal, you’re buying more fruits, vegetables, and less red meat. Yet, you may be unaware that certain foods you eat, or even the way you prepare them, can be unhealthy, cause you to age faster, and put you at risk for serious diseases. Keep reading to find out how.
What Are AGE’s and How Do They Affect Your Health?
You’ve just made a big pan of stir-fry vegetables with some slivered almonds. You’ve cooked some brown rice and added it to your stir-fry mix and browned them all together. Even though your recipe may taste great, you’ve just created a chemical mix of substances that aren’t so great for your health. They’re called Advanced Glycation End Products, or AGE’s. It’s true. Eating a seemingly healthy stir fry cooked in this fashion can set off an inflammatory response in your body that fosters premature aging of your cells and opens the doors to disease. Here’s why.
The vegetables, almonds and brown rice you used for your stir-fry mixes these foods’ proteins and sugars together in a frying pan over heat, likely with a cooking oil (not water), to brown them. Browning grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, without water, creates a chemical reaction between the proteins and sugars releasing AGE’s that you then consume in your stir-fry.
Researchers who work with AGE’s say that you absorb about 30% of AGEs from your browned, or fried foods, this way. In 2010, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, published a study that said “Modern diets are largely heat-processed and as a result contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Dietary advanced glycation end products (dAGEs) are known to contribute to increased oxidant stress and inflammation, which are linked to the recent epidemics of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Your diet, then, is one way to get AGE’s.
A second way your body is affected by AGE’s is through your body’s natural processes via metabolism and aging. Carbohydrates break down into sugars that your body uses for energy. Yet, some of these sugars become “glycated” and turned into AGE’s. There’s not much you can do about this natural metabolic process except to know that the more sugars, and carbohydrates, you consume, the more AGE’s your body will create.
Simple sugars –turn into AGE’s at a much higher rate like fructose (from fruit) and galactose (a fructose derivative). In the past 3 decades, the American diet has become overloaded with these sugars – especially high fructose corn syrup. This not only likely accounts for the obesity epidemic but the diabetes epidemic as well.
For example, diabetics, with higher blood sugar levels, have higher amounts of AGE’s in their bodies. They age faster and develop the diseases of aging – like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer – at a higher rate than non-diabetics. AGE’s have been implicated by researchers as being a significant factor in such diseases of aging as:
- Alzheimer disease – AGE’s may help to create amyloidal protein plaques on brains with Alzheimer’s.
- Heart disease – AGE’s create inflammation of vascular structures. The inflammation inhibits nitric oxide which keeps blood vessels flexible and open and results in the formation of hardened plaques. These plaques block blood flow, causing heart attacks and strokes.
- Cancer – AGE’s damage cellular DNA through inflammation. AGE’s promote growth of cancer cells because they need sugar to survive. Sugar promotes growth of cancer cells.
How Can You Avoid AGE’s?
As I noted earlier, the more sugars in your diet, the more AGE’s you’ll have in your body. Here are some suggestions to help you lessen the amount of AGE’s you’ll produce.
1. Eat less sugar, refined and natural. Omit refined sugars from your diet, or only as a once in a while treat like a piece of cake at a party, here and there. You need the vitamins, minerals and enzymes in fruits, but not all the sugar. Choose lower sugar varieties like berries, cherries, plums, and eat higher sugar fruits (like bananas) in lesser quantities. Avoid high fructose corn syrup. Switch to water with lemon or lime added instead of sodas.
2. Eat low glycemic foods: Eat foods that will keep your blood sugar levels in a normal range.
3. Exercise. Exercise keeps blood sugar levels stable and also helps rid the body of toxins.
4. Steam cook vegetables, fruits or eat raw. Cooking in water prevents sugars from binding to proteins and creating AGE’s. Forego frequent browning of foods.
5. Use lower heat to cook meat. Forego frequent high heat barbecuing or grilling.
6. Supplements: Be sure your antioxidants (Vitamins A,C, E, selenium, etc) are optimal. Other substances like L-carnosine and pyridoxamine type vitamin B6 suppress AGE formation.
7. Stop smoking: Smoking introduces thousands of toxins into your body that promote the formation of AGE’s.
Research has shown that excess sugar intake creates metabolic processes in your body that set you up for ill health. Eating optimally is critical to help you decrease the formation of AGE’s in your body, preserve your health and significantly slow down the aging process. That’s surely worth giving up some of those browned foods or that daily sugary treat!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.