AGE is the acronym for advanced glycation end products. They are harmful compounds formed from the combination of proteins or fats with sugar.
Your body is able to rid itself of a certain quantity of AGEs, but when confronted with too many, they begin to accumulate. This can lead to or worsen a number of health conditions, including osteoporosis.
Today we'll take a close look at how these compounds are formed, both inside your body and through certain cooking processes. You'll learn how to reduce your intake of AGEs, and in doing so, protect yourself from bone loss and a variety of other health conditions.
AGEs In A Nutshell
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs), also known as glycotoxins, are naturally occurring compounds. As the words “end products” suggest, these compounds are the result of the process of glycation. Glycation is a non-enzymatic reaction between sugars and proteins or fats.
The AGEs in your body are derived from two sources: your body's natural process of metabolism and your diet. If excessively high levels of AGEs are produced, they can cause health problems.
Studies have found that AGEs cause inflammation and interfere with the function of cells around them.1 For example, a study of AGEs and the circulatory system found that they “accumulate in the vessel wall, where they may perturb cell structure and function.”2
Certain antioxidants found in plant foods have been shown to inhibit the formation of AGEs in the body. One study tested the ability of vitamin C, aminoguanidine, the polyphenol quercetin, and green tea to reduce AGE production, and found that they were all effective.3
AGEs in food are found primarily in animal products. Preparation methods that involve dry heat or cooking in oil can dramatically increase the AGE levels of food. That's because these methods trigger the glycation reaction (also known as the Maillard reaction) between sugars and proteins or fats.
AGE or advanced glycation end products are the result of a reaction between sugars and proteins or fats either in the body or in foods. AGEs accumulate in the body and can cause health problems. Some antioxidant compounds like Vitamin C and the polyphenol quercetin can inhibit the formation of AGEs in the body. Animal products are the primary food sources of AGEs and cooking them with dry heat increases their AGE levels.
The Dangers Of AGEs
Studies have found that AGEs cause inflammation, which can exacerbate the already elevated rates of inflammation associated with aging. One study even gave a name to this feedback loop between inflammation and aging: inflammaging.1
Excessive AGE levels have been linked to diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and kidney failure.4,5,6
AGEs also harm the cardiovascular system. A study of 559 women found that participants with high AGE levels were nearly twice as likely to die of heart disease than those with low levels.7
This is certainly sufficient cause to actively prevent AGE accumulation, but for Savers, there's another compelling factor: bone loss.
A study of the relationship between AGEs and bones found that AGEs accumulate within bone itself. As AGE levels increased, researchers observed that they impacted the mechanical properties of bone tissue. This intrusion disturbs bone remodeling and makes AGEs an underlying cause of osteoporosis.1
Another study looked at the impact of different AGEs on specific components of bone. The researchers examined the impact of two types of AGEs on bone quality and osteoporotic fractures in a group of postmenopausal women.8
They found that different types of AGEs interfere with different parts of the bone tissue. Some AGEs disrupted collagen networks in bone, while others interfered with the mineral structure of bone. Even though only the second type impacted bone mineral density (BMD) both types of AGE were linked to a greater risk of fracture.8
This an excellent reminder that there's more to bone health and fracture prevention than just bone mineral density (BMD).
Studies have linked AGE accumulation to diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer's, high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney failure, and heart disease. Additionally, AGEs accumulate in bone tissue, interfering with multiple components of bone. Studies have associated AGEs with increased fracture risk.
How To Avoid AGEs
The right food choices can prevent the formation of AGEs in your body. Studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and quercetin can help prevent the formation of AGEs. This is good news for Savers since Vitamin C is a Foundation Supplement. Quercetin is a bone-healthy polyphenol found in many foods, including some cruciferous vegetables, berries, and other fruits. You can get more details on quercetin, including the richest food sources by clicking the link below:
Conversely, some foods are naturally high in AGEs, and the way those foods are prepared can increase their AGE levels. Research conducted by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine has provided us with detailed information about AGE levels and formation in food:
“Based on the findings, dry heat promotes new dAGE formation by > (greater than) 10 to 100 fold above the uncooked state across food categories. Animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein are generally AGE-rich and prone to new AGE formation during cooking. In contrast, carbohydrate-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk contain relatively few AGEs, even after cooking. The formation of new dAGEs during cooking was prevented by the AGE inhibitory compound aminoguanidine and significantly reduced by cooking with moist heat, using shorter cooking times, cooking at lower temperatures, and by use of acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar.”9
We can break these findings down into a few simple dietary guidelines for reducing our AGE intake:
- Avoid excessive consumption of animal products
- Use a variety of cooking methods besides roasting, grilling, baking, and sauteing by incorporating cooking with moist heat (boiling, steaming, poaching, stewing)
- Marinate and cook with acids and vinegars whenever possible
- Emphasize vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains
- Take 2000 mg of Vitamin C on a daily basis and eat foods that contain quercetin
Fortunately for Savers, the Osteoporosis Reversal Program's 80/20 pH-balanced diet limits high-AGE foods and emphasizes the sorts of antioxidant-rich plant foods that support your body's ability to regulate the production of AGEs.
High-AGE diets regularly include grilled, roasted, or fried meats, full-fat dairy products, and processed foods. All of these are acidifying.
On the other hand, diets rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains are likely to be low-AGE. These categories represent the alkalizing foods of the 80% portion in a pH-balanced bone-healthy diet.
Reduce AGE formation by consuming antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. To avoid AGEs found in foods reduce animal products in your diet, avoid excessive cooking with dry heat, cook using acids like lemon juice and vinegar, and eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
AGE Levels Of Common Foods
AGEs are measured in kilounits, abbreviated as kU. A high-AGE diet is any amount significantly above 15,000kU. Diets that stay well below this figure are low AGE diets.
Take a look at this list of AGE levels in different foods, and notice both the difference between the types of food and the difference between different preparations of the same food. This food data was collected by researchers at the Mount Sinai School Of Medicine. Each entry lists the type of food, the size of a serving, and the quantity of AGEs in that serving.9
- Chicken, breast, skinless, raw – 90g – 692kU
- Chicken, breast, skinless, poached, 15 min – 90g – 968kU
- Chicken, breast, boiled in water – 90g – 1,089kU
- Chicken, breast, pan fried, 13 min, high – 90g – 4,444kU
- Chicken, breast, roasted, 45 min with skin – 90g – 5,975kU
- Chicken, breast, breaded, oven fried, 25 min, with skin – 90g -8,965kU
- Salmon, prev. frozen, steamed, 8 min, med. heat – 90g – 900kU
- Salmon, broiled with olive oil – 90g – 3,901kU
- Egg, poached, below simmer, 5 min – 30g – 27kU
- Egg, scrambled, pan, high, olive oil, 1 min – 30g – 73kU
- Egg, fried, one large – 45g – 1,237kU
- Beans, red kidney, canned – 100g – 191kU
- Beans, red kidney, cooked 1 h – 100g – 298kU
- Potato, white, boiled 25 min – 100g – 17kU
- Potato, white, roasted 45 min, with 5 mL oil/serving – 100g – 218kU
- Apple, Macintosh – 100g – 13kU
- Banana – 100g – 9kU
- Plums, dried pitted prunes – 30g – 50kU
- Eggplant, raw, marinated with balsamic vinegar – 100g – 116kU
- Eggplant, grilled, marinated with balsamic vinegar – 100g – 256kU
- Green beans, canned – 100g – 18kU
- Tomato – 100g – 23kU
- Cashews, raw – 30g – 2,019kU
- Cashews, roasted – 30g – 2,942kU
- Sunflower seeds, raw, hulled – 30g – 753kU
- Sunflower seeds, roasted and salted – 30g – 1,408kU
AGEs are measured in kilounits (kU). Diets containing significantly more than 15,000 kU per day are considered high-AGE diets. Use the above list of AGEs in food by type and preparation to get a sense of how food type and preparation affect AGE levels.
What This Means To You
Choose foods and preparations to maintain your AGE levels within a desirable range to protect yourself from bone loss and other health conditions caused by their high levels. Those simple dietary choices will sound familiar to Savers because they're perfectly in line with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program‘s 80/20 pH-balanced diet. In fact, if you're following this diet, you're already reducing your AGE intake.
With your new knowledge, you can make bone-smart choices about what you eat and how you prepare it. Every choice you make to prioritize your bone health brings you another step closer to the strong and resilient bones you need to live a full and independent life.