Accumulation of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) is linked to higher risks of inflammation, oxidative stress, and chronic diseases. Although they are naturally found in the body, certain cooking methods and foods harbor them, but you can also reduce their accumulation by eating healthier whole foods, getting moving, and shifting to healthier cooking options.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are harmful compounds formed when sugar and fats or protein react in the cells. Still, certain foods, primarily those high in fat and sugars, and certain ways of cooking, basically those exposing food to dry heat, pack many AGEs, and load them to the body when you eat them. As more AGEs accumulate in the cells, inflammation and oxidative stress skyrocket, and the risk of chronic conditions, including cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, and diabetes, increase. Consequently, many researchers are pointing fingers at AGEs as the triggers of health problems and are calling upon them as markers of poor health.
Let’s first explore what AGEs are before looking at the nitty-gritty about them. Simply put, these are dangerous chemicals that form through a process called glycation that happens when fat or proteins react with sugar in the cells or bloodstream. They are naturally found in the human body and increase with aging because of comprised cell conditions and reduced cell activity that accompany aging. However, some foods, especially those that pack many fats, sugars, and proteins, seem to increase AGEs in the bloodstream. For instance, nuts, cheese, mayonnaise, margarine, oils, cream cheeses, etc., have a direct bearing on the accumulation of AGEs. Moreover, certain cooking methods, primarily high-temperature cooking techniques that expose to dry heat, including sautéing, frying, grilling, broiling, searing, toasting, etc., also add extra AGEs to food adding on to what the body already has. Sadly, as the accumulation of AGEs increases in the bloodstream, studies have found that inflammation risks equally skyrocket, and so do the amounts of free radicals and their damaging oxidative stress. It’s no wonder that more studies find a relationship between AGEs and the development of most chronic conditions.
Diet and cooking methods add on to AGEs accumulation
Studies have shown that diet and cooking methods increase AGEs accumulation in the bloodstream some 10-100 times. As such, foods tend to have nearly 100 times as many AGEs when cooked than they had while raw, making diet and cooking methods the leading cause of increased AGEs in the body. Red meat, eggs, nuts, etc., already have high AGEs but exposing them to dry heat through high-temperature cooking crazily increases the amounts of AGEs. Consequently, research shows that sautéing, broiling, grilling, deep-frying, barbequing, searing, etc., are inappropriate.
Furthermore, protein-and-or-fat-rich foods are generally more predisposed to AGE formation when subjected to high heat. This means that while they may be healthy in their raw forms, your cooking method may introduce more AGEs to them, rendering them more harmful than good for health. However, you can avoid increasing AGEs in your fairly healthy foods by avoiding high-heat cooking methods. Instead, stewing or slightly steaming foods helps you enjoy them, retain their nutritional value, and still prevent the formation of the dangerous AGEs.
AGEs may make a good indicator of health
Although the body can naturally eliminate AGEs, taking too many in a single session impairs the body’s ability to perform its role. As such, the compounds accumulate in the body and trigger inflammation, free radical accumulation, and oxidative stress. Consequently, studies have found a relationship between high numbers of AGEs, increased inflammation and oxidative damage, and increased development of Alzheimer’s disease, kidney failure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions.
More studies are confirming that AGEs can appropriately indicate health conditions since their high numbers have been recorded among those with chronic conditions. For instance, one study examined 500 people for their AGE numbers and increased susceptibility to heart disease. It was observed that people with the lowest AGEs had half the risk of getting heart disease compared to their fellows with the highest AGEs, who recorded two times as much risk. Besides, many different studies observed more inflammation and oxidative damage markers in individuals with many AGEs.
How much is too much?
Clearly, reducing your AGEs intake results in reduced susceptibility to chronic conditions, and the reverse is also true. Although this is the case, there are currently no guidelines informing us how much AGEs are too much. However, in New York, 15,000 AGE kilounits per day are considered the threshold. Anything below or above this is low and high, respectively. This harmonizes with most studies that have been conducted and used the 12,000- 15,000 kilounits per day. Besides, observing your diet and cooking methods helps you know whether you are well within the threshold or bypass it. For instance, if you eat red meat, nuts, mayonnaise, oils, margarine, and other foods with high-fat content and grill, sear, broil, sauté, fry, or use high-heat cooking methods, you are contributing to AGE accumulation in the body.
How to scale down AGEs in your diet
Now that you know what AGEs are, what leads to their accumulation, and what bearing they have on your health, you definitely want to scale down their accumulation in your body. It’s simple as remembering the following three steps;
i. Use safer cooking methods
High-heat cooking methods such as broiling, frying, searing, broiling, and toasting lead to the accumulation of AGEs in the body. Why not try low-heat cooking methods to scale down AGEs? You can still boil, stew, or slightly steam food, and you will enjoy it. Besides, cook on ceramic surfaces as opposed to metal surfaces to reduce AGE formation.
ii. Reduce AGE-rich food consumption
Nuts, red meat, mayonnaise, margarine, oils, etc., are sweet but not without the higher AGE amounts in them. As such, you can reduce their consumption and focus on whole foods, including vegetables, roots, and grains, to scale down AGEs.
iii. Focus more on antioxidant-rich foods
Antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals, fight inflammation, and reduce the effects of inflammation and oxidative stress. Fruits, vegetables, and berries are loaded with many antioxidants and will go a long way to reduce AGE formation.
AGEs are dangerous compounds naturally formed in the body when protein or fat react with sugar in the bloodstream. Diet and high-heat cooking methods also increase AGE formation, and studies show that they increase AGEs by 10-100 times. Sadly, the accumulation of AGEs is linked to increased inflammation and free radical damage, as well as the development of chronic conditions. Thankfully, you can scale down AGE concentration by focusing on antioxidant-rich foods, lowering your consumption of AGE-rich foods, and opting for safer cooking methods.