Chronic inflammation is a pandemic that is affecting most the North American population (in my opinion). 1 in 2 people will have cancer, autoimmune disease is the highest it has ever been and continues to climb, diabetes, digestive issues, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia… these are all increasing rapidly as well. Recent evidence has found that excessive consumption of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), harmful compounds that stem from cooking foods at high temperatures and accumulate in the body as people age, are a major cause of this inflammation that is at the root cause of most disease.
What Are AGEs
AGEs naturally form inside the body when proteins or fats combine with sugars (glycation). This disrupts the normal function of cells, making them more susceptible to damage and premature aging. AGEs are particularly high in animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein, such as animal protein (especially red meats), which are prone to AGE formation through cooking. Sugary foods and highly processed and prepackaged products also are high in AGEs. Cooking methods that use high temperatures to brown or char foods, such as grilling, roasting, and broiling, have the largest impact on the amount of AGEs consumed.
Your standard american diet is extremely high in animal products, particularly ones that have been cooked at high temperatures (deep dryer, BBQ, etc). Dietary interventions that reduce the consumption of foods high in AGEs, which are common in the standard Western diet, can be helping in reducing chronic inflammation.
The body naturally rids itself of harmful AGE compounds, but it doesn’t eliminate them effectively when too many are ingested through food. The body is also heavily burdened with other inflammatory toxins that come from our environment which means it is even less effective at eliminating AGE compounds. All of the body’s cells are affected by the accumulation of AGEs, which not only have been linked to aging but also the development or worsening of many chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular, liver, kidney and even Alzheimer’s diseases.
To reduce AGE consumption, eating low AGE foods is essential to decreasing the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.
“According to one study, published in the July 2011 issue of Diabetes Care, in which Uribarri was the lead author, AGE consumption may contribute to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes, and restricting AGE foods may help preserve the body’s natural defenses against insulin resistance by preventing the development of oxidative stress. “
In this particular study, two groups of diabetic individuals following the recommended standard of care for diabetes were randomized to either a high- or low-AGE diet. It was found that the AGE-restricted diet improved insulin resistance in those individuals. Because AGEs are associated with oxidative stress, they’re of particular concern to patients with diabetes and prediabetes.
In another study coauthored by Uribarri, published in the January issue of Current Diabetes Reports, researchers showed that subjects who consumed a meal with a high AGE content had an increased circulation of AGEs in the body, and that lowering dietary AGE intake could improve hyperinsulinemia by about 40% in type 2 diabetes patients. Excessive intake of AGEs as a potential cause of diabetes is “an area of major clinical relevance,” the study concluded.
The Best Cooking Methods
The most effective way to reduce intake of foods high in AGEs is to alter your current cooking methods. It has been found that dry heat promoted AGE formation by more than 10- to 100-fold above uncooked foods in all food categories. Meats high in protein and fat were likely to form AGEs during cooking, while carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains maintained low AGE levels after cooking. Foods cooked with moist heat, shorter cooking times and lower temperatures, and acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice produced the least amount of AGEs.
“A Danish study published in the January issue of Diabetes Care 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.”
Grilling and deep frying are the worst methods of cooking as they destrpy all the natural enzymes and nutrients in food while increasing the AGE content.
I’m not saying to stop grilling altogether, but reducing the frequency can definitely help to improve your health. If you do still decide tog rill your food, use an acid-based marinade that contains lemon or other citrus fruit juices, or vinegar. The acid will help to reduce AGE levels and also enhances the flavour of the protein while also making it easier to digest. While the protein is marinating in acid, the acid (similar to the stomach) helps digest some of that protein!
Whether on the grill, in a skillet, or in the oven, browning or charring foods is an indication that AGEs are present. Cooking foods using medium heat for an extra minute or two instead of using high heat is another good tip to help reduce AGEs.
COnvenience is a huge factor for while people grill or cook foods at high temnperatures. If you are short on time, using a lead-free slow cooker can help. Less oil is needed in slow cookers and more nutrients are retained compared with many other cooking methods so this is a great alternative!
Another way to reduce AGE consumption is to eat more vegetables and fruits. Dietary phytonutrients, which are found in the pigments of various colorful fruits and vegetables are of the utmost importance in maintaining low inflammation levels in the body. One type of phytonutrient in particular, called iridoids, which are found in deeply colored blueberries, cranberries, have been found to lower AGEs in the body.
Here are some other factors to consider. People who are sleep deprived have higher circulating AGEs (hello parents!). Sleep is the time when the body does most of its tissue growth and repair, making it better able to defend itself against AGEs.
Autophagy occurs while you are Sleeping and fasting so intermittent fasting is another beneficial practice to help your body clean out old and damaged cells as well as inflammatory toxins. D
Daily activity and stress reduction also play important roles, along with a clean, mostly plant-based diet, to reduce AGEs.
Foods High in AGEs
• Sugary items such as candy, cookies, cakes, soda, and pastries
• Processed foods, including packaged meats and cheese
• High-fat (especially red) meats
• Fats, including butter, margarine, and oil
• Fried foods
Foods Low in AGEs
• Fruits and vegetables
• Whole grains
• Low-fat breads
• Vegetarian burgers
• Use a slow cooker
• Cook foods in water through boiling, steaming, or poaching or using lower heat when frying
• Marinate foods in acidic or citrus-based sauces
• Ensure you aim to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night
• Exercise regularly, especially HIIT
• Practice on managing stress
• Practice Intermittent fasting to encourage autophagy
• Reducing our snacking (balancing our blood sugar)
Something to ponder
Are you sensitive to eggs? Do you get itchy skin or a flare up in your symptoms whenever you have an omelet or fried egg?
For some people, they can tolerate Hard-boiled eggs, or eggs baked into something but cannot tolerate fried eggs. Are you curious why that is? Here is one of the reasons why!
AGEs accumulate in the body as people age and are a major cause of inflammation and can increase your risk of insulin resistant type 2 diabetes. AGEs are much higher in fried foods than in steams or poached. This is why some people don’t get inflamed when eating hard boiled eggs or baked goods containing eggs but flare up after scrambled eggs or sunny side up eggs!