Have you heard of AGEs? AGEs are compounds that do just that—they age you. The acronym AGEs is short for advanced glycation end products. AGEs are compounds produced in the body, and obtained from certain foods, that wreak havoc in the body, leading to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, kidney disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
In the body, AGEs are produced during normal metabolism and aging, and are particularly increased when blood sugar is high. AGEs also enter the body by way of certain foods, a topic studied by a group of researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The group, headed by Helen Vlassara, MD, has found that many processed foods and foods cooked with dry heat, such as that used in grilling, increase AGEs in the body.
Previous studies by this group determined a few factors that increase AGEs in the body:
- Foods high in protein and fat
- Processed foods
- Foods cooked at high temperature
- Dry heat cooking
- Long cooking time
In general, foods high in protein or fat that are cooked at high temperatures, for lengthened periods of time, or under dry conditions produce the most AGEs. The first bullet refers to foods high in protein and fat, but processed foods—in the second bullet—are often high in carbohydrates. Processed carbohydrates are also the number-one contributor to high blood sugar, a major trigger of AGEs in the body. Diets low in AGEs have been found to lower AGE levels in the body by 30–40 percent.
What’s the bottom line? Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits (no surprise here), lean proteins, and healthy fats. Steer clear of processed foods. And vary your cooking method. If you love grilled foods, use lower heat, marinate the meat, and grill less often than usual. Choose baking over broiling, or better yet, choose stewing or boiling over baking. Make small changes, and experiment with your diet. You may just AGE less!