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Haitai Teachings

What I learned from Interviewing a Japanese Doctor

by Christal Burnette 03 Apr 2024 0 Comments


What Speeds Up Aging? Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

In our quest for a longevity lifestyle, we often pay attention to factors such as diet, exercise, and environmental influences. However, there's a lesser-known aspect that may significantly impact our well-being: advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are compounds formed through a natural process in the body and can also be derived from certain foods. I recently interviewed a doctor in Okinawa, Japan who focuses on not providing high AGE foods to her patients. Her patients are women who are pregnant or have just given birth. This is a sensitive period for a woman's body and it is clear the diet is extremely important during this time. After interviewing her, I decided to delve deeper on the topic and explain it to my fellow moai'ins.

What are Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)?

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are a complex group of compounds formed when sugars react with proteins, lipids, or nucleic acids in a process known as glycation or non-enzymatic glycosylation. This process occurs naturally in the body, but it can also be accelerated by external factors such as high blood sugar levels and the consumption of certain foods. AGEs can accumulate over time and are associated with various health conditions and the aging process.

How Are AGEs Formed?

The formation of AGEs occurs through a series of complex chemical reactions known as the Maillard reaction. It involves the bonding of sugars, such as glucose or fructose, with proteins or lipids. This reaction results in the formation of various compounds, including AGEs. The process is accelerated in the presence of oxidative stress, caused by factors such as inflammation, high blood sugar, and exposure to environmental toxins.

Where Do AGEs Come From?

AGEs can be formed endogenously within the body as a byproduct of metabolism. However, exogenous sources also contribute significantly to AGE accumulation. The following are common sources of exogenous AGEs:
  1. High-Heat Cooking Methods: Foods cooked at high temperatures, such as frying, grilling, or roasting, promote the formation of AGEs. This is especially true for foods rich in proteins and fats, such as meat, cheese, and oils.
  2. Processed and Packaged Foods: Processed and packaged foods often contain additives, preservatives, and flavor enhancers that can contribute to AGE formation. Additionally, these products may undergo processes that increase their AGE content, such as pasteurization or sterilization.

Are AGEs Bad For You?

Excessive accumulation of AGEs in the body has been associated with various health conditions, including:
  1. Aging: AGEs contribute to the aging process by causing structural changes in proteins and impairing their function. This can lead to tissue damage, reduced elasticity of the skin, and the development of age-related diseases.
  2. Diabetes Complications: Individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to AGE accumulation due to elevated blood sugar levels. AGEs contribute to the development of diabetic complications, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, and nerve disorders.
  3. Inflammation and Oxidative Stress: AGEs promote inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which are underlying factors in developing chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, and certain types of cancer.

How Do You Reduce AGEs in Your Diet and Lifestyle?

Although it is impossible to completely avoid AGEs, specific strategies can help reduce their intake and impact on health:
  1. Choose Cooking Methods Wisely: Opt for cooking methods that involve lower temperatures, such as steaming, boiling, or poaching. These methods minimize the formation of AGEs compared to high-heat cooking techniques.
  2. Include Fresh Ingredients: Emphasize a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are generally lower in AGEs and provide essential nutrients and antioxidants that can counteract the effects of AGE accumulation.
  3. Limit Processed and Packaged Foods: Minimize the consumption of processed and packaged foods, as they tend to have higher levels of AGEs. Instead, focus on preparing homemade meals using fresh ingredients.
  4. Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Include foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, purple sweet potato (beni-imo), leafy greens, and nuts, in your diet. Antioxidants help neutralize the harmful effects of AGEs and reduce oxidative stress.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are compounds formed through the glycation process and can have significant implications for our health. While AGEs are naturally formed in the body, their intake from external sources can contribute to their accumulation and associated health risks. By adopting a mindful approach to cooking methods, choosing fresh and minimally processed foods, and incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into our diet, we can minimize the impact of AGEs and promote overall well-being. Now, did you notice this sounds a whole lot like the Okinawan diet? By adopting Okinawan recipes into your daily diet, you will absolutely reduce the amount of AGEs you consume.
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