AGEs are toxic compounds. Their full name is Advanced Glycation Endproducts, and they form naturally in small amounts in our body. Until recently, scientists thought AGEs were just normal byproducts of our metabolic system linked to sugar.
New studies show that AGEs are present in large quantities in most of the foods we eat today. As new modes of food processing, applied by food industries, or popular methods of cooking expose food to dry-heat to make it safe, digestible and tasty, they also help raise AGEs to levels dangerous for the body.
Why do we consume foods that contain substances known to be toxic? It’s simple. AGEs are known to bring to raw nutrients those positive attributes we associate with our favorite meals. AGEs are responsible for the taste, appearance and the smell of foods we enjoy – the grilled burger and pizza and soft drinks and fried chicken; the bacon and corn chips and cookies. AGEs are at work whenever cooked food attracts our attention, awakens our senses and encourages us to take yet another bite, even when we’re already full. How many of us would consider eating these same foods raw? But before you think of thanking AGEs for all the pleasure they have given you over the years, consider this:
More than any other single dietary component, AGEs are now found to be linked to more diseases and health problems, including diabetes, heart and kidney disease, but also dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, arthritis,osteoporosis, skin aging, poor wound healing, and periodontal disease.
Why are AGEs toxic?
1. AGEs are oxidants. They corrode our body the same way rust damages metal in a machine if it’s allowed to build up. Oxidation depletes our natural reserves of anti-oxidants, which are the “good guys”. Anti-oxidants are the substances that can neutralize the corrosive effects of AGEs, but only up to a point.
2. The body reacts to AGEs the same way it fights an infection, except that its capacity is limited. Our native defenses normally eliminate AGE toxins by mobilizing a low level of generalized inflammation, which is our body’s normal reaction to ”irritants”, such as bacteria. For example, a person with an infection – an “irritant” to the body – may experience a rise in body temperature – a “fever”, which indicates inflammation, but this will go away soon. Food AGEs, like bacteria, can also trigger inflammation but this time – since they come in often – it may not go away soon, and over time it can erode our self-defenses, as AGEs pile up in the body, like junk. And they continue to cause more oxidation (rusting) and inflammation (low “fever”), which may not become noticed for many years.
At worst, if inflammation is prolonged it will slowly damage every organ in the body – Most chronic diseases are associated with inflammation and high levels of AGEs. At best, AGEs speed up our body’s and mind’s aging
3. Animal fats are easily oxidized by AGEs. When this happens, AGE-lipids from our food tend to stick to our arteries and cause blockage, high blood pressure or heart trouble. Or they settle in our waistline as AGE-fat, causing inflammation, obesity, insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when insulin, a vital hormone, becomes less effective at lowering blood sugar and its levels become abnormally high. Excessive body weight is closely associated with this condition, frequently leading to diabetes.
4. AGEs also can cause proteins to stick together. With years, AGE-proteins become rigid. This is one reason why joints, muscles and tendons become stiff and inflexible over time. This is why blood vessels become thick and inelastic, a condition we call “hardening of the arteries”, which leads to high blood pressure and heart disease.