Don't Let AGEs Age You

One of the lifestyle pillars that is essential to us living a long and healthy life is reducing our exposure to toxins. These toxins could come from the air we breathe (smog, off-gassing of couches etc), the products we put on our skin and hair (make-up, lotion, shampoo, sunscreen etc), and among others, the food we eat. Today, we’re diving into the toxins that are produced when we cook meat.

These toxins are called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs); Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs); and Heterocyclic Amines, (HCAs).

AGEs are defined as a “diverse collection of compounds that are created in your body and are also found in the food you eat” OR “harmful end products of fat oxidation or the Maillard reaction (browning of foods that occurs when sugars combine with amino acids).

Let’s start with AGEs which are aptly named because their effects cause aging throughout our body and are known as “gerontotoxins”.

  • They cause tissue stiffness, oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • They play a role in cataract formation and macular degeneration of the eye.
  • They may impact the brain by accelerating the slow shrinkage of your brain as you age.
    • Elevated levels of AGEs are seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims through autopsy as well as in blood or urine tests of older adults who suffer accelerated loss of cognitive function over timeThey promote atherosclerosis, neuropathy, endothelial damage (the inner lining of all bloodvessels) and kidney disease
  • They alter cell function, disrupt insulin receptors and increase insulin resistance
  • They cause beta cell damage in the pancreas

Even though our body naturally produces some AGEs, those appear to be detoxified in the body. The other sources are the problem:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Meat and meat-derived products exposed to dry-heat cooking methods; such as frying, broiling, grilling and roasting
  • AGEs are formed when fat- and protein-rich foods are exposed to high temperatures
  • Found in processed meats
  • Butter, margarine and roasted nuts
  • Research is showing that fructose, derived from high fructose corn syrup, table sugar, agave, honey and other sweeteners, forms more AGEs at a more rapid rate than glucose

Foods with the lowest AGEs are highest in carbohydrates.

AGEs also form in your body when sugar molecules combine with lipids or amino acids - this is common in poorly controlled diabetics who have 20-30% higher AGEs than non-diabetic people.

PAHs or Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are defined as “a group of several hundred chemically related compounds that are formed by the incomplete burning of organic substances, including foods that are heated to temperatures above 350°F (176°C)

The most concentrated sources are grilled or charred meat, poultry, fish, grain products, fats, oils and sweets.

Whole grains that are soaked, sprouted, boiled or steamed are negligible sources.

HCAs or Heterocyclic Amines are chemicals formed when meat, poultry, eggs and fish are subjected to high temperatures, particularly with grilling, frying or cooking with dry heat.

HCAs are NOT present in plant foods because their formation requires the presence of the amino acids creatine or creatinine (compounds only found in animal tissue).

HCAs are linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Let’s look at some common foods and their AGEs amounts for comparison:

A baked apple   = 45 units of AGES

A raw apple       = 13 units

Broiled hot dog  = 10,143 units

Boiled hot dog   =  6,736 units

Boiled fish has 10 times more AGEs than a sweet potato

Meat contains 20 times more AGEs than highly processed foods like breakfast cereals and 150 times more than fresh fruit and veggies

Poultry has 20 times more AGEs than beef

(Source: How Not To Die by Michael Greger, MD)


What’s the solution? While AGEs exist in nearly everything, you’ll drastically reduce your exposure by severely limiting or eliminating all meat products from your diet. And, for those special occasions when you do eat a steak, you can chase it with some ginger which has been shown to suppress AGEs. So, if you needed more reasons to reduce or eliminate eating animal products, you now have it.

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