Glycation is known to be a significant factor in the development of age-related diseases, including atherosclerosis, heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, complications of diabetes, cataracts, and premature aging of the skin. Glycation, a chemical reaction between sugar and protein, results in deformed and nonfunctioning molecules. Glycated proteins then tend to fuse together in a process known as cross-linking. Cross-linking makes tissues in the body stiff and tough. Organs such as the heart, eyes, and skin, which must be flexible in order to function well, are particularly vulnerable to glycation damage during aging.
Glycated proteins produce toxic advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which generate free radicals and promote inflammation. AGEs develop from chronic consumption of high quantities of sugar and refined carbohydrates found in the typical American diet. Furthermore, cooking foods at high temperatures results in a “browning” effect, where sugars and certain oxidized fats react with proteins to form even more AGEs in the food. The more AGEs you make, the faster you age because glucose-modified proteins are much “stickier,” adhering to blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis, blindness, impotence, and kidney damage. High levels of AGEs are found in diabetics.
The first step in reducing glycation is to decrease the amount of sugary foods (including fruit juices and all sweetened beverages), starches and refined carbohydrates (including white flour white rice, and pasta) in your diet. Limit your total caloric intake to achieve a healthy body composition. Avoid cooking foods at high temperatures. Supplementing with carnosine, a naturally occurring nutrient in meat, may help protect the body’s proteins from glycation. .