An AGE-less way of eating everyone should follow

Do you like to cook meat with high-temperature, dry-heat cooking methods?  Is so, you may want to reconsider your style of cuisine. 

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Research has suggested that harmful compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), can form when foods are cooked at high temperatures to brown or char foods such as when grilled, broiled roasted, seared, or fried.   From forming wrinkles to increasing the risk of chronic disease, AGEs can accumulate in the body as we grow older, increasing inflammation and oxidative stress possibly increasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even aging our skin.

In the book, “Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet,” co-author Helen Vlassara, MD, one of the scientists who originally identified AGEs, says that AGEs are “intertwined with virtually every aspect of chronic disease and aging.”

AGEs explained

When proteins or fats combine with sugars (glycation), AGEs form inside the body.  The normal functioning of our body cells are affected by this making them susceptible to damage and premature aging.  Animal-derived foods high in fat and protein, such as red meat, are usually AGE-rich and prone to new AGE formation during cooking.  Other foods high in AGEs are sugary and highly processed and packaged foods. 

Our bodies are resilient enough to rid itself of harmful AGE compounds but if too many foods rich in AGEs are consumed, it will have a harder time eliminating them completely. 

How do AGEs increase chronic health conditions

It used to be thought that AGEs in our food didn’t pose much of a risk to our health as it was believed the body absorbed very few of the compounds.  Now it appears we actually absorb as much as 10% of AGEs we eat.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like much but depending on food choices and cooking methods, it could be significant. 

Here are some diseases AGEs could possibly affect:

·      Diabetes – Research has suggested AGE-rich foods may contribute to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes due to oxidative stress.  People who consumed a low AGE diet had improved insulin resistance compared to those consuming more AGE-rich foods.

·      Heart Disease – Individuals consuming the most AGEs had a greater risk for cardiovascular disease.  AGEs may trigger the formation of fatty streaks leading to atherosclerosis or plaque formation.

·      Kidney Disease – Older individuals had poorer kidney function if they had high levels of AGEs in their bloodstream.  Overweight and obese individuals placed on a low-AGE diet had improved kidney function.

·      Cancer – Since AGEs may increase chronic low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress, this may lead to damaged genes starting the cancer process.  Limited research has shown signs of higher AGEs in individuals with tumors of the colon, stomach, pancreas, prostate, breast and ovary.

Even the number of hours of nightly sleep is another factor affected by AGEs. People who are sleep deprived have higher circulating AGEs.  When you sleep, the body repairs itself, growing new tissue making it better able to defend against AGEs.  Getting adequate nightly sleep appears to defend against increased circulating AGEs.

The aging of our skin is also influenced by AGEs.  Since our skin is the largest organ of the human body, it is subjected to various external stresses but also internal processes that can change and affect its youthful appearance. There is ample evidence that AGEs play an important role in skin aging.  Studies are looking into substances to reduce accumulation of AGEs in tissues. 

Strategies for limiting AGEs in the diet

·      Limit foods high in AGEs:

*Fried foods

*High-fat cuts of meat (red)

*Sugary foods – candy, cookies, soda and pastries

*Processed foods – bacon, deli meats, hot dogs

*Fats – butter, oil, margarine

 

·      Include more foods low in AGEs:

*Fruits and vegetables

*Whole grains

*Fish

*Beans and legumes

·      Use better cooking methods:

*Marinate meats in acidic compounds such as vinegar, wine, or citrus juice – these inhibit the formation of AGEs. 

*Cook over low-heat – as an example, cook scrambled eggs over medium-low heat to form less AGEs.

*Use moist methods of heat – steam, stew, poach, braise or use a pressure cooker as opposed to grilling, roasting, broiling or frying. 

*Microwave – Foods microwaved produce less AGEs than foods cooked with dry heat methods.

*Grill fruits and vegetables instead of meat – Plant based foods will contain less AGEs than animal foods.

*If you do grill meat, limit the frequency and always marinate the meat to reduce AGE amounts and to enhance flavor.

*Cut way back on consumption of processed foods as they contain more AGEs.  Cooking from scratch can be a great method putting you in control of what ingredients go into your food and how your meals are prepared.