The term “Advanced Glycation End product” or AGE isn’t exactly well known. Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine aim to change that and with good reason. To the uninitiated, AGEs are toxic byproducts that are linked to numerous health threats ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes. They’re formed during the cooking and processing of various foods using high heat. Within the body, AGEs can also be produced – especially in the context of diets rich in carbohydrates. The latest evidence suggests that this prevalent risk factor affects everyone from infants to seniors. Why infants? A report in the December 2010 issue of Diabetes Care explains that infants receiving baby formula had twice the level of AGEs typically found in adult diabetics. The authors go on to reveal that baby formula can contain 100 times the AGE content of breast milk. In seniors, elevated AGEs are an emerging risk factor for “accelerated cognitive aging” and Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, there are simple ways to mitigate the effects of dietary AGEs and to discourage their manufacture internally. For instance, according to a study published in July 2011, switching to an AGE-restricted diet for as little as 4 months can lower inflammation and insulin levels by 35% in type 2 diabetics.
Here are several specific ways to decrease your own intake of dietary Advanced Glycation End products: 1) Cook foods, especially those rich in fat and protein, using low heat and moisture when possible by poaching and steaming. 2) Marinate foods that require higher heat preparation with acid and/or antioxidant ingredients such as aromatic herbs and spices, citrus juice, soy sauce and vinegar. 3) Eat a low-glycemic diet that is nutrient dense. Dietary models including the Mediterranean and Okinawan diets provide viable examples. 4) If overweight, reducing your body mass index via caloric restriction has been shown to lower AGE concentrations by roughly 7%. In closing, I want to mention that Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I have found Crock-Pots or slow cookers to be invaluable in our quest to cook “low and slow”. They’re an inexpensive and practical tool for anyone striving to reduce dietary AGE exposure.