How to be AGE-less
Now I’m not talking about Botox or chemical peels. I’m actually talking about the food we eat and the way in which we prepare it. While it may seem inconsequential, and I know you don’t want to hear more bad news about your diet, how we prepare our food can have a significant impact on health, especially those who have or who are at risk for certain chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
AGEs or Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) are formed when proteins or fats combine with sugars, affecting the functioning of cells and making them more susceptible to damage and premature aging. There are two ways in which we are exposed to AGEs; naturally in our body and through food. An example of this process in our body is glycated hemoglobin or hemoglobin A1C, which is a measurement that can be done through a lab which looks at the damage done to red blood cells from high blood sugar over 2-3 months. This test is often used to determine if you have diabetes or to assess how well your blood sugar is being managed by medications. When our blood sugars run high for a period of time, the sugar interacts with the red blood cells as well as other cells in our body. For those with diabetes this process is what contributes to kidney, eye, and nerve damage—complications of poorly controlled blood sugar.
The second way in which we are exposed to AGEs is through high temperature cooking and food preparation practices. This process affects all cells in our body contributing to high blood pressure, heart disease, inflammation, insulin resistance, and diabetes. You know the yummy dark bits on your food you see through roasting—the browning on meat or roasted vegetables, or the “char” when you barbecue, well I’m sorry to say, those are AGEs. AGEs are particularly elevated in animal products that are high in fat and protein such as meat, especially red meat. AGEs are also found in high levels in sugary foods, and foods that are highly processed and prepackaged.
Most AGEs are eliminated from our bodies through our urine, however, if your exposure is high the body’s elimination pathways get saturated and the burden of AGEs begin to wreak havoc on our health. One study showed that overweight women who ate foods cooked at high temperatures had much higher biological markers of insulin resistance compared with those who ate foods prepared by boiling or steaming. Other studies suggest that high AGE diets promote risk factors for heart disease in patients with diabetes and that reduction of dietary AGEs through simple cooking modifications may actively reduce heart disease risk in these patients.
So what can we do about this? A lot! Eat real, whole foods, foods that are not in a box or wrapped in plastic and with ingredients you cannot pronounce. Not only do real foods contain less AGEs, but a diet high in vegetables and some fruit is like armour for our body, protecting it from the potential damage from AGE invaders.
Quick Tips to stay AGE-less:
Cook low and slow or dust off that slow cooker. Less oil is required for cooking in slow cookers reducing AGE formation.
Marinade your meat for at least 30 minutes before cooking or barbecuing using an acidic or citrus based marinade.
Cook foods by boiling, stewing, steaming, or poaching.
Rather than grill meat, try grilled fruit and veggies instead. Grilling vegetables produce less AGEs.
When eating grilled or roasted meat, be sure to fill your plate with lots of veggies which contain high amounts of anti-oxidants for protection.
Cook more at home, rather than eating on the run or eating out where you have little control over how your food is prepared.
Get enough shut-eye. Research has shown that those who are sleep deprived have higher circulating AGEs.
Detox for removal of AGEs—keeping well hydrated, exercising regularly, eating plenty of fibre and including a variety of herbs and spices in your diet can help support detoxification pathways.
 The Ageless Way. What are AGEs? http://theage-lessway.com/about-ages/what-are-ages/ Accessed November 28, 2016.
 Budek, Alicja et al. Consumption of a Diet Low in Advanced Glycation End Products for 4 Weeks Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Overweight Women. Diabetes Care. 2014, 37(1): 88-95. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/37/1/88 Accessed November 28, 2016.
Clark, Rachel E. et al. Dietary Advanced Glycation End Products and Risk Factors for Chronic Disease: A Systematic Review of Randomised Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2016 Mar; 8(3): 125. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808855/ Accessed November 28, 2016