What are Advanced Glycation End Products?

Obesity and overeating cause serious health problems. They increase a person’s risk of heart disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes (1).

Medical research has shown that your metabolic health may also be affected by toxic compounds known as advanced glycation end products (ACGEs). AGEs affect a person’s metabolic health regardless of their weight.

Advanced glycation end products build up in the body naturally as a person gets older. It is also formed when you cook some foods at very high temperatures.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about advanced glycation end products, and how you can reduce your AGEs level.

What are advanced glycation end products?

AGEs are toxic compounds produced by the combination of fat or protein with sugar in the blood. This process is known as glycation (2).

AGEs also form in foods, especially foods that have been heated to high temperatures, as in the case of frying, grilling, or toasting.

Most AGEs come from a person’s diet.

The good news is that your body is capable of eliminating these toxic compounds, including those that are involved in enzymatic and antioxidant activity (34).

However, when you take an excess of AGEs from your diet, or excess of it form spontaneously, your body will not be able to eliminate them as fast as it should. This results in their accumulation.

Studies have shown that low levels of AGEs are not harmful to the body. However, very high levels can trigger oxidative stress and inflammation (5).

It is important to know that high levels of advanced glycation end products have been associated with chronic diseases such as kidney failure, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and premature aging (6).

Also, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) contributes to increased production of AGEs.

This explains why many clinicians are advocating for AGE to be identified as a marker of general health.

Modern diets are associated with an increased level of AGEs

Most modern foods contain a very high amount of advanced glycation end products. This is caused by exposure of foods to dry heat.

We expose our foods to dry heat when we grill, barbecue, roast, fry, bake, broil, sauté, toast, or sear these foods (7).

There is no doubt that these cooking methods make our food to smell good, taste fine, and even look appetizing. However, they also shoot up your AGEs intake to very high and potentially harmful levels (8).

Exposing foods to dry heat increases its AGEs level by 10 – 100 times the levels in raw foods (7).

Some foods with high protein and fat content, like animal foods, are very susceptible to AGE formation (7).

The highest levels of AGEs are found in foods such as meat (red meat), fried eggs, some cheeses, butter, cream cheese, nuts, oils, mayonnaise, and margarine. High levels of AGEs are also found in fried and processed foods.

And so, even if your diet appears healthy, your cooking method may increase its AGEs content to unhealthy levels.

The accumulation of advanced glycation end products can be injurious to your health

Your body can eliminate harmful AGEs. This elimination occurs naturally.

But then, if you take an excess of AGEs, they will build up very fast, and your body will then be struggling to eliminate them. This can be injurious to your health.

High levels of advanced glycation end products are associated with many chronic ailments, including liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, high blood pressure, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease (9101112).

A particular study involving 559 women found that those who had very high levels of AGEs in their blood had a higher chance of dying from heart disease compared to those who had low AGEs level (11).

A second study showed that obese persons with metabolic syndrome had very high levels of advanced end glycation products in their blood compared with those who were healthy (13).

Studies have also found that AGEs are higher in women with polycystic ovary syndrome than in women without the condition (14).

You should also know that excess intake of AGEs through the diet has been associated with most of these chronic ailments (515). AGEs destroy your body’s cells, thus increasing oxidative stress and inflammation (161718).

Prolonged inflammation can damage all the organs in your body (19).

A diet with low advanced glycation end products may reduce the risk of disease

Studies have shown that reducing your intake of dietary AGEs protects against premature aging and diseases (20).

Several pieces of animal-based research have shown that consuming a diet low in AGE lowers your risk of kidney and heart disease. It also reduces your risk of increased insulin sensitivity by 53% (2122232425).

Human studies have produced similar results. Limiting dietary consumption of AGEs in healthy people and those with kidney disease or diabetes reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress (262728).

A 12-month study examined the effects of a low-AGE diet on 138 obese subjects. Results from the study showed a slight increase in insulin sensitivity, a slight decrease in body weight, and reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, and AGE levels (29).

At what level can you say that AGE is too much?

The average consumption of advanced glycation end products in New York is 15,000 AGE kilounits daily. However, many people consume much more than this amount (7).

Your AGE diet is said to be on the high side if it is significantly above 15,000 kilounits per day. Also, anything below 15,000 kilounits per day is considered low.

To understand whether you’re eating too many AGEs, you must consider your diet. If your diet consists of roasted or grilled meats, full-fat dairy, solid fats, and heavily processed foods, then you may be consuming high levels of advanced glycation end products.

Conversely, if you eat a plant-based diet, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, then your AGE level will be on the low side.

If you cook your food with moist heat, as in the case of stews and soups, you will also be taking low levels of AGEs.

How can I reduce my level of advanced glycation end products?

The following tips will help if you want to reduce your AGEs levels:

Use different cooking methods

Prepare your foods using healthy cooking methods.

As much as you can, avoid cooking with dry, high heat. Instead, use poaching, stewing, steaming, and boiling.

When you cook with low heat, and for shorter periods, AGEs formation will of course be on the low side (7).

You can also reduce AGE formation in your food by cooking with tomato juice, vinegar, or lemon juice. Cooking with these ingredients reduces AGE production by 50% (7).

You can also reduce AGE production by cooking over ceramic surfaces instead of metal surfaces. Cooking with slow cookers are also considered healthy.

Limit consumption of foods high in advanced glycation end products

Fried foods and highly processed foods contain a lot of AGEs.

Animal foods are also high in AGEs. Foods in this category include fried eggs, cheeses, red meat, cream cheese, nuts, oils, and mayonnaise (7).

Limit your intake of these foods, or if possible, eliminate them from your diet. In its place, you can take fresh foods.

Great examples are fruits, whole grains, and vegetables (7).

Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants

Studies have shown that natural antioxidants inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end products. Examples of antioxidants include quercetin and vitamin C (30).

Also, animal studies have shown that some plant phenols can reduce the adverse effects of advanced glycation end products (3132).

Curcumin is a good example of a plant phenol that reduces AGES formation. Curcumin is an active component in turmeric. Another compound that works well in this regard is resveratrol. It occurs naturally in the skins of raspberries, blueberries, and grapes (3132).

Lead an active lifestyle

Apart from your diet, a sedentary lifestyle also promotes the formation of advanced glycation end products.

Contrastingly, an active life reduces AGEs formation in your body (3334). A study involving 17 women (all middle-aged) found that those who walked more had reduced AGE levels (33).