Getting to know the harmful toxins that can undermine your health can make all the difference in actively preventing their damage, as well as helping you make informed decisions about the food you eat. AGEs are one of many such toxins, and are becoming a very dangerous, yet prevalent part of life.
Standing for Advanced Glycation Endproducts, AGEs are a toxin that can be found naturally in small amount throughout the body. It was thought, until very recently, that they were a by-product of our metabolism; however, recent studies have shown that they can actually be found in great a abundance in many of the foods we eat – especially foods that are heavily processed.
To put it very simply, AGE’s play a very large role in the taste, aromas and appearances of food - and which foods cater to our most primal urges and instincts? The heavily processed, fatty and sugary ones of course. Go back a few decades and AGEs weren’t really a concern. We did not have the convenience and ease of heavily processed AGE ridden fast foods like we do today, so our diets were quite lacking in them. As we have become more affluent as a society, and the ease with which we can produce and buy processed foods has increased, so has the amount of AGEs found within our bodies, and it is becoming quite a concern.
Out of all the things we ingest, AGEs are linked to more diseases and health problems than any other. These include, Alzheimer’s disease, Heart and kidney problems, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, dementia, arthritis, premature aging, and a whole array of other problems.
AGEs hurt us in many ways, and affect nearly every cell in the body. Firstly, they are oxidants, corroding the body on a cellular level and cancelling out beneficial antioxidants (whose job it is to prevent this damage). It is one of the main causes of ageing and disease, as they break down parts of the body beyond reasonable repair.
To try and minimise the damage, the body tries to fight off AGEs, much in the way it would an infection. However, unlike when fighting an infection, the body is very limited in what it can do. The body’s main way of combating AGEs is with inflammation – a common way for the body to help fight bacteria. The thing is though, unlike infectious bacteria, there is often a constant supply of AGEs, so the inflammation doesn’t really go away. If left untreated, long term inflammation can damage every organ in the body, and is associated with most serious long term disease.
AGEs also have the ability to oxidise animal fat, which is something very prevenient in today’s Western diet. These additional oxidants (known as AGE-lipids) not only damage the body on a cellular level, but also contribute to the clogging of arteries, as well as the development of insulin resistance and obesity.
If all this wasn’t enough, AGEs have one more unwelcome gift to bestow. AGEs bind proteins together that should not be bound. With time these proteins become rigid, and it is one of the main contributing factors to the rigidity we experience with muscles and tendons as we age. It is also a causes what is known as ‘hardening of the arteries’, which can cause high blood pressure and heart disease.
Whilst AGEs are naturally occurring, and something that cannot be completely avoided, it is possible to drastically cut down the amount we are consuming. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including avoiding heavily processed foods, choosing healthy cooking methods, stocking up on antioxidants, and eating fresh, raw fruit and vegetables.