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What are Advanced Glycation End Products [AGEs]?

Lifestyle, Nutrition

With summer in full swing, backyard barbecues and social gatherings around grilling food are popular ways to enjoy time together with family and friends.  However, danger is lurking in the food we cook on high, dry heat. Read on below to learn how to avoid these dangers for you and your guests.

You may have heard of AGEs before, but what exactly are they? AGEs, or advanced glycation end products, are a type of compound that forms when proteins or fats combine with sugars. These compounds are known to contribute to increased inflammation and oxidative stress and can damage tissues, contributing to the development of various chronic diseases. 

What Are AGEs?

AGEs, also known as glycotoxins, form when proteins and fats combine with sugars during cooking. These compounds can damage tissues and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. The body produces AGEs naturally, but they can also be produced through cooking methods like grilling, frying, and roasting. 

Processed foods also tend to be high in AGEs. Exposure to AGEs has been linked to an increased risk of inflammation, oxidative stress, and cell damage. These effects can lead to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

How Can You Avoid AGEs?

While the formation of AGEs is part of normal metabolism, excessive amounts may be harmful. There are several ways you can avoid exposure to AGEs.

  • Cook using moist methods, such as steaming or boiling, that don’t involve high dry heat
  • Limit your consumption of processed foods
  • Use shorter cooking times
  • Cook food gently using lower temperatures
  • Include acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice and vinegar which inhibit the formation of AGEs

Modern diets are often high in processed foods that have higher levels of AGEs, so it’s important to limit your intake of these foods. Some processed foods that are high in AGEs include:

  • Hot dogs
  • Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Chips
  • Pizza

Carbohydrate-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk tend to be lower in AGEs, even after cooking.  Foods that are lower in AGEs include:

  • whole-grain bread and pasta
  • yogurt
  • beans and legumes
  • fruit
  • low-fat milk products

There is evidence that maintaining a healthy gut microbiome may also contribute to lower levels of circulating AGEs. This is because gut bacteria have the ability to degrade AGEs during the digestive process. Consuming a diet rich in probiotic foods such as fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir) and taking a probiotic supplement can support a healthy gut microbiome.

Lastly, consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals [antioxidants found in plants] may also contribute to reducing cell damage caused by AGEs.

Lowering intake of AGEs

Human studies suggest that a low-AGE diet reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. These studies revealed increased insulin sensitivity, which can help maintain weight loss over time, as well as reduced markers of inflammation.

So what does a low-AGE diet look like? Here are two sample menus with some of my favorite meal plan recipes that utilize ways to reduce AGE levels:

Menu 1

Breakfast: Orange Cardamom Overnight Oats

Lunch: Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Walnuts

Snack: Yogurt with Blueberries

Dinner: Whole-grain Pasta with Beans, Garlic, and Arugula served with Simple Poached Salmon

Menu 2

Breakfast: Chocolate Fudge Smoothie with Hemp Seeds

Lunch: Quinoa Tabbouleh

Snack: Low-fat Cottage Cheese with Raspberries

Dinner: African Peanut Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

Conclusion

Reducing your exposure to AGEs is a good way to support your overall health and reduce your risk of chronic disease. By making simple changes to the way you cook and eat, you can help protect your health in the long term by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“The current dAGE database demonstrates that a significantly reduced intake of dAGEs can be achieved by increasing the consumption of fish, legumes, low-fat milk products, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and by reducing intake of solid fats, fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and highly processed foods.”[PMC 2013]

This recommendation is consistent with those from the American Heart Association, American Institute for Cancer Research, and the American Diabetes Association so in following a diet lower in AGEs, you naturally reduce your risk for several chronic diseases.

Now that you know what advanced glycation end products are and strategies to reduce your exposure, you can use them to help manage the impact of these compounds. 

To help you get started, here are a couple of my favorite summertime, backyard barbecue recipes low in AGEs. 

Avoid the Grill: Quinoa Salad with Blueberries and Strawberries (This red, white and blue salad is very festive!) 

Use the Grill, but add acid to the food: Grilled Cauliflower Pizza

Need support to best implement these dietary and lifestyle habits into your life in the safest and most effective way? Book an appointment with me today to see if my nutrition and wellness programs can help you.

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About the Author

Angela is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), board-certified health coach and trained yoga teacher who helps clients achieve a healthy weight and gain control over their GI distress.

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