“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
I thought it’d be fitting to write a post about advanced glycation end products, aka AGEs. Known as ‘aging’ toxins, they speed up the aging process. They are present in some foods (mentioned below); cooking method also affects the amount of AGEs — dry or wet heat. And they are also a natural by-product of metabolism.
A Bit About AGEs
AGEs cause trouble in our bodies by cross linking protein to excess sugar molecules. Some types of cross linking are normal but not the kind I’m talking about here.
Effects of cross linking are stiffness and inflammation in body tissues. Many common diseases begin with inflammation.
Our bodies are pretty good at cleaning up the damage caused by AGEs produced by metabolism, a natural process. It’s when more is thrown in in the form of junk food that an excess is created and the body finds it more difficult to cope.
So health problems come knocking. Think less energy and joint and muscle stiffness as you age — that’s cross linking in action. Hello, rigid arteries, wrinkles and tissue damage (and much more).
Three Sources of AGEs
- The first you have zero control over as they are by-products of metabolism — the energy-extracting processes that convert food into more user-friendly forms for your body. They also accumulate during the normal aging process.
- The second you can control: what you eat and the way you cook.
- And the third source of AGEs? Cigarette smoke. Apart from the damage caused by free radicals released when smoking, AGEs are just another reason why smoking ages the skin.
Some of the Havoc Caused by AGEs
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Osteoporosis, fractures
Foods with Lots of AGEs
- Roast BBQ chicken
- Fried bacon
- Pan-fried steak
- Pan-fried turkey burger
- Big Mac
- Oven-fried fish
- Chicken McNuggets
How to Minimise AGEs
Note that it is in dry heat that AGEs are most abundant, so cut back on roasting, frying and grilling; steam or boil instead. Or use a slow cooker.
OK, so maybe a boiled Big Mac doesn’t sound as tasty but, hey, think of the upside. Even better, have a steamed veggie burger. Now, we’re talking!
That’s not to say that having just plant foods on your plate means no AGEs at all. But, compared to animal protein, plant foods contain fewer AGEs; even when cooking over dry heat. Check the difference: McDonalds burger — 4.876 units of AGEs; veggie burger 20 units — both fried the same way.
Until next time. Eat well. Age well.
PS. Please note that this blog post is a simplified snapshot of complex biochemistry. For more in-depth information on AGEs, there’s plenty available online.