A Beginner's Guide: AGEs
Ah, that smell of herbs and spices covering our food that’s on the grill, roasting or being sautéed is such a joyous experience, the thought of indulging is overpowering. But, did you know these high-heat cooking methods can be doing your body harm?
Although more studies are needed, many health practitioners are becoming more proactive about monitoring a process that may be contributing to the increase of metabolic diseases – AGEs.
WHAT ARE AGEs?
AGEs stand for advanced glycation end products. The word “glycation” is a process within our bodies that have damaging compounds which are created in our bloodstream when the protein and fat from a food are paired together with sugar.1
But it doesn’t only happen inside of our bodies, glycation is also and predominantly formed in the foods we eat when cooking in high temperatures (grilling & frying) and dry heat.1,2
Although our body does an amazing job at getting rid of these destructive compounds, with anything in excess and accumulation over time, AGEs can become severe, initiating or exacerbating chronic diseases caused by an increased burden of inflammation and oxidative stress.1,2,3
Studies have shown that elevated levels of AGEs create an environment that brings forth diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, kidney failure and accelerated aging.1,3,4
One study found that those who are classified as obese with metabolic syndrome showed higher levels of AGEs than those who were obese but didn’t have metabolic syndrome.5,6
Another study determined AGEs play a major role in the vascular health of diabetics and are linked to atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).7 AGEs also inhibit white blood cell activity and decrease the availability of nitric oxide.7
Many studies have corroborated that avoiding or decreasing intake of AGEs will lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation which, in turn, lowers risk of chronic diseases.1-7
WHERE ARE THEY FOUND?
Our Western diet makes it easier than ever to consume substantial amounts of AGEs due to the way we’re preparing our food. The top offenders are roasting, grilling, frying, toasting, sautéing and barbecuing.1-4 However, studies have only shown that animal foods are highest on the list due to their fat and protein content - foods with a high carbohydrate and low fat content don’t generate a high AGEs.1-5
While there isn’t much information on a general population, one study stated that the average AGE that’s consumed in New York is 14,700kUs per day.4,
So, what’s the “healthy” range?
Anything drastically below the 15,000kU/day marker, however, there is no definite statistic.3,4
If you take a good look at your diet and find that you’re regularly eating foods that are fried, grilled for a long period of time on high heat, moist heat meals like soups and stews, solid fats like full-fat dairy and cheeses then you can assume that you’re consuming an elevated level of AGEs.4,6
Below is a list of 10 common eaten foods from highest AGE content (in kUs) to the lowest. Keep in mind that these are per serving size.5
1. Chicken nugget – 7,764 kU
2. Hot Dog, broiled – 6,736 kU
3. Chicken breast, broiled – 5,706 kU
4. Chicken breast, fried – 5,510 kU
5. Smoked turkey breast – 5,412 kU
6. Sausage, fried – 5,349 kU
7. Fast food hamburger – 4,876 kU
8. American Cheese – 2,603 kU
9. Parmesan – 2,535
10. Fried egg – 1,237
HOW CAN YOU REDUCE YOUR AGEs INTAKE?
Choose an alternative cooking method. Try boiling, steaming, stewing and cooking with lower temperatures for shorter amounts of time.5 You can also decrease AGEs by 50% with the incorporation of foods that contain higher acid content like lemon, vinegar and tomatoes.5
Limit foods containing high AGEs. Plant-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, unrefined carbohydrates and healthy fats are low in AGEs.5,7
Include foods high in antioxidants. Foods like dark berries, red peppers and spices like turmeric all have vitamin c, quercetin and resveratrol that all contribute to inhibiting AGEs formation.5