How to Prevent AGEing
AGE stands for Advanced Glycation End products. Glycation is the process by which sugar is added to proteins. So, in order to understand this interaction, you need to understand proteins first. Proteins are essential for life because the enzymes which drive important biochemical reactions in our body are made up of proteins. Proteins are also the building blocks for our muscles, blood vessels, organs, and also make up collagen which maintains our cartilage, bone and skin. When proteins start breaking down, we start looking older as our skin starts to wrinkle, feeling older as the cartilage wears away in our joints leading to arthritis, and we put all our vital organs at risk.
So, now enter sugar. When sugar, a.k.a. glucose, is in normal amounts in our bloodstream, it interacts harmlessly with these life-sustaining proteins. However, when sugar levels are excessive, glucose latches onto proteins and changes their structure and function, preventing them from carrying out their normal functions. So AGEs are basically dysfunctional glucose-protein complexes that result from too much sugar in your blood, which in turn, is a direct result of the foods you eat. What are the specific conditions linked to having AGEs?
- Heart disease and stroke
- Type II diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Visual impairment
- Nerve damage
What foods put you at risk for accelerated aging due to AGEs?
- Beware of browning foods and brown foods: I know, you’ve been told brown foods are healthier, right? Not always the case. Many processed foods such as brown cookies, brown bread crust, and brown beans undergo a caramelization process when proteins and sugars are combined in the absence of water. It makes food more flavorful, but unfortunately increases AGEs. Cooking meats at high temperature like a broiled or well done piece of meat with that nice crust would have the same effect. Browning vegetables, grains and fruits would also increase AGEs. So eat fresh, unprocessed foods and cook low and slow with water whenever you can (steaming, boiling, Crockpot cooking, etc.)
- Avoid high fructose corn syrup: Read all food labels for this
- Avoid excess sugars, sweets and sodas
- Watch your total overall consumption of carbohydrates: Even consuming excessive amounts of “healthy carbs” in the form of oatmeal, grains and wheat can cause sugar to increase, which not only leads to increased AGEs, but also excess weight
- Exercise regularly: Exercise helps
increase the metabolism of sugars and reduces AGEs
This post is contributed by Ronesh (Ron) Sinha, M.D., Palo Alto Medical Foundation Internal Medicine. Dr. Sinha works closely with the South Asian community to help reduce heart disease and diabetes risk, and provides corporate health lectures to promote wellness in the workplace. Dr. Sinha holds clinical faculty positions at UCLA; Stanford University School of Medicine; and the UCSF