By Kelley Herring
Today, we conclude our series on “Burner Bandits” – compounds that can form in your food when cooked at high temperature. These cooking byproducts can turn even the healthiest foods into a dietary disaster, so it pays to avoid them.
In the two previous articles, we covered:
- Lipid Oxidation Products (LOPs) – These compounds form when fats go rancid (especially polyunsaturated fats, like vegetable and seed oils) and when fats are heated above their “smoke” point.
- Acrylamide – This compound forms when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperature, especially when fried. French fries and chips are big offenders to avoid.
- Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) – These compounds form when muscle meats are exposed to high temperatures – especially when meat is charred. Opt for braising, slow cooking, and pressure cooking. When grilling, avoid those “burny bits.”
Today, we cover one of the most destructive of the Burner Bandits…
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
As their name aptly implies, AGEs speed up the aging process.
But that’s not all…
These compounds are also directly linked to the cornerstones of chronic disease – inflammation and oxidation – and are implicated in the development and progression of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and more.
AGEs are result of glycation reactions – the scientific term for sugar molecule binding to proteins or fats. AGEs enter the body through the foods we eat (exogenous AGEs). And they can also be produced by our own metabolism (called endogenous AGEs).
Either way, you have the power to avoid them!
Exogenous AGEs all have something in common—they’re brown. They are found in the caramel hue of a cola… the crisp shell of a crème brulee… and the syrupy brown coating of barbecue sauce on a rack of ribs (Sorry to disappoint – yes, I know they’re delicious!).
This browning reaction – called the Maillard reaction in chemistry – is what causes caramelization. And caramelization is the visible effect of sugar molecules attaching to proteins or fats and creating AGEs.
Endogenous AGEs, manufactured by your body’s own metabolic processes, require one specific ingredient – sugar! Consuming sugar flips the switch to the “on position” of your body’s own AGE production.
And once that switch is flipped – either as the result of consuming sugar or by consuming foods that have undergone the browning reaction – the end result is inflammation!
But the destructive reaction doesn’t stop there…
Not only do AGEs set the wheel in motion, they also push it along. Many cells in the body (like the sensitive endothelial cells that line your blood vessels, smooth muscle cells and immune cells) have Receptors for Advanced Glycation End products (RAGE).
And when these receptors bind to AGEs, they accelerate the aging process and promote chronic inflammatory conditions, including atherosclerosis, asthma, arthritis, myocardial infarction, nephropathy, retinopathy or neuropathy.
Let’s look at the research on…
Six Ways AGEs Impact Your Health
- AGEs Increase Inflammation: A study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation found that consumption of foods rich in AGEs equated to higher the blood levels of AGEs…and higher levels of CRP and other inflammatory markers.
- AGE Damage is Proportional to Sugar Intake: Research shows that most AGE-related damage in the body is directly proportional to sugar intake. Reduce sugar, reduce AGEs.
- AGEs Promote Alzheimer’s: The amyloid proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s disease are by-products of the reactions which progress to AGEs.
- AGEs Are Slow to Go: Glycated substances are eliminated from the body very slowly. In fact, their clearance factor is only about 30%. This means that the half-life of an AGE in the body is about double the average life of a cell. Therefore, long-lived cells (like nerves and brain cells), long-lasting proteins (like eye crystalline and collagen) as well as DNA can accumulate significant damage over time. Metabolically active cells—including the glomeruli in the kidneys, the retinal cells in the eye and the beta cells of the pancreas (which produce insulin) are also at high risk of damage by AGEs.
- AGEs Promote Wrinkles: Experts believe that about 50% of skin aging is due to the glycation process. Besides damaging collagen, sugar also affects what type of collagen you have. The most abundant collagens in the skin are type I, II and III. Of these, type III is the most stable and long lasting. But glycation transforms type III collagen into the more-fragile type I, leaving you with skin that’s less supple and more wrinkle-prone.
- AGEs Damage the Heart & Blood Vessels: Endothelial cells in your blood vessels are directly damaged by glycation reactions. Atherosclerotic plaque also tends to accumulate due to increased levels of sugar molecules and AGEs. Damage by glycation stiffens collagen in the blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure.
The bad news is that these compounds can be VERY damaging to your health. And considering what they do to your skin – they won’t help you look any younger. The good news, however, is that with a few simple steps you can dramatically reduce your exposure to and production of these health robbers.
Four Simple Steps to Reduce Glycation
- Stick to a Low Glycemic Diet: Reducing the sugar in your diet is the #1 way to fight glycation. Consume a low-glycemic diet to help keep your blood sugar levels stable and fight AGE-ing.
- Sweeten Safely: Satisfy your sweet tooth safely with erythritol, stevia and monk fruit. These sweeteners have a glycemic index of zero and do not undergo the browning reaction.
- If it’s Brown, Turn it Down: Avoid highly-caramelized foods— especially prepackaged ready meals—as they have been found to contain high levels of AGEs.
- Get Your B’s: Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B6 act as potent inhibitors of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Aim for 1 mg per day of each. Good sources of vitamin B1 include grass-fed beef and liver, nuts, pastured pork and eggs; good sources of vitamin B6 include grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, pork and turkey, as well as some wild fish.
Our choices today impact our health and wellness tomorrow. Choose a low glycemic ancestral diet, and cook your food gently to help reduce the culinary compounds that can hasten aging and promote disease.
Need a little help planning your keto-friendly holiday spread? Kelley has put together a free guide – Keto Holidays – that will help you keep the joy and delight in your holiday meals… while leaving the unwanted carbs aside. Inside, you’ll find 20+ keto-friendly recipes (including each one mentioned in the article above), all nutritionally analyzed and containing 5 grams of net carbs (or less!). Grab your free copy here…