Our body is a very complex machine which is continually processing the foods we eat through chemical reactions we refer to as digestion and metabolism. Foods which are highly refined, processed and over cooked break down into sugars and proteins which wreak havoc in our cells. The sugar and protein molecules combine in the blood and in our cells to create byproducts known as 'anti-glycation end products' or AGE's. Over the course of many years, AGE's directly contribute to many of the common diseases associated with aging such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer, renal failure, blindness, cataracts and even the brown 'age spots' frequently seen on the hands of older individuals. We have direct control over AGE development and accumulation in our bodies, and diet is key to controlling the AGEing mechanism.
AGE Leads To Disease
While a small amount of AGE accumulation is normal and unavoidable, we have direct control over the degree of glycation of the proteins in our blood and cells through proper diet. In order for proteins to perform their specific function in our body, they must be formed or folded in a very precise pattern. When the protein comes in contact with a sticky sugar molecule, the two clump together to create a new molecule which no longer is able to complete its metabolic task. Further, this newly combined structure is now much larger in size, making it very difficult to navigate through the smallest capillary vessels, some the size of a red blood cell. The AGE molecule will either cause a blockage of the vessel or cause damage as it scrapes through the narrow opening. This is a primary cause of eye and kidney damage in diabetics who typically have very high AGE levels in the blood, measured by an A1C blood test. A1C is a measure of red blood cell AGE formation over the last 90 days. Diabetics and those at risk should have their A1C measured twice a year to ensure a reading below 5, which has been shown to reduce complications from AGE damage.
Eat Natural and Raw To Prevent Disease
Diets which are high in refined carbohydrates, wheat, corn, grains, sugar and grilled, roasted or barbecued meats promote AGE accumulation in the body. Over the years, AGE's begin to overwhelm our ability to eliminate these improperly formed structures, and the body looks for ways to store them in an attempt to prevent further damage. Eventually we are unable to handle the continual glycation flood and disease is the end result. Once an AGE is formed it is very difficult to reverse the process, so the best strategy is to prevent them from forming. This is accomplished through diet. A natural, predominately raw diet of vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and lean proteins is effective in the reduction of AGE's as it stabilizes blood glucose and insulin, thus eliminating sugar which is necessary for the process to initiate. Studies have shown that switching to this type of natural diet can slow the advancing AGE process, and result in lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
AGEing Can Be Prevented
Many of the outward signs of advancing age are directly attributed to the glycation of our cells. Wrinkles, age spots and even graying hair are all the consequence of the cross-linking between proteins and glucose in the body. Once these bonds are formed, they are virtually impossible to break, so it is best to prevent the advancement of AGE formation. While diet is the front line defense, there are some nutriceuticals which have shown promise in keeping the glycation reaction in check. Carnosine is an amino acid which has shown promise in inhibiting the protein-sugar cross-link. Additionally, a form of B1 vitamin known as Benfotiamine, and a B6 derivative called Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (P5P) are known to have anti-glycation effects. Alpha Lipoic Acid and Resveratrol are powerful anti-oxidants and are effective in reducing the AGE process.
Many people consider aging to be a natural and inevitable process. Current research is illuminating our knowledge of anti-glycation end products, and the role they play in the development of many devastating diseases. Diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, dementia and outward aging occur as a direct result of AGE accumulation and the poor diet which is consumed by most people during their lifetime. Research has demonstrated that we can halt the damaging effects of glycation by adopting a diet of whole, natural and raw foods which keep blood sugar in check. Specific supplements can help prevent many of the devastating effects of AGEing by inhibiting cellular cross-links. Further, losing weight and moderate amounts of exercise also contribute to risk reduction by improving blood glucose and insulin resistance. A dedicated program which combines significant lifestyle changes and appropriate supplementation will result in a positive, healthy attitude and an extended life span.