Generally, how food is prepared gets less attention than what's eaten or when it's consumed. In fact, the how, what and when of food are all important. July 4th is a great time to shine the light on how because the barbecue rules, even for those who don’t usually prep food that way. Grilling is a form of high temperature cooking and browning that produces advanced glycation end products (AGEs), toxic compounds that accelerate aging and promote chronic disease. Western tastebuds strongly favor AGEs because they improve the taste and smell of food. For wellness, the less AGEs, the better: that means cooking methods is a practical strategy to improve health.
- AGE basics: Glycation is a chemical reaction that binds sugar to protein or fat, creating advanced glycation end products. Anyone managing elevated blood sugar (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome) is familiar with Hemoglobin A1C, a test that assesses one AGE: glycated hemoglobin (higher A1C means less well-managed blood sugar). The baseline level of AGEs that form naturally through cell function is heightened by exposure to UV radiation, smoking, diet and other lifestyle factors.
- AGEs and health: AGEs damage cells by increasing inflammation, harmful free radicals and other cell stressors, in part by increasing insulin resistance, cholesterol and triglycerides. Elevated AGEs are associated with cardiovascular disease, chronic liver, kidney, pancreatic and neurodegenerative disorders, and many types of cancer. They are being investigated for use as a biomarker, a measurable indicator for the onset and progression of disease. For example, there is a direct, causal relationship between stepped-up AGE levels and Alzheimer’s, which affects both the incidence and timing of the disorder. Population studies find dietary AGE consumption correlates strongly with Alzheimer’s prevalence: dementia is low in countries with low AGE intake and high in countries with high intake. As the Japanese people transitioned from their traditional diet to a more Western, meat-based, AGE-rich diet, Alzheimer's rates rose significantly. The more AGEs in your system, the more likely you are to experience mental decline, and the quicker that decline progresses. AGEs accumulate in the body over time, compounding their damage.
- AGEs in food: All foods naturally contain AGEs and more form through processing and cooking. AGEs are low in carbohydrates and don't significantly increase with cooking. Meat, cheese and processed foods are high in AGEs; prolonged high temperature cooking adds more. Dry heat cooking can raise AGEs one hundred times above than the amount found in the same uncooked food. The Mediterranean, traditional Japanese and other Asian diets are rich in diverse, low-AGE foods, with little meat and dairy consumption. There is no official recommendation for dietary AGE intake, but investigators suggest it not exceed 7500KU/day. A 3oz (90 gm) serving of chicken thigh, barbecued with the skin on, has 16,688KU of AGEs, and if roasted, 10,034KU. The AGE content of standard serving sizes of many foods, available in an online database to help guide meal planning, can be referenced by clicking this link from The SEEDS Plan website. Food is an easy target for reducing the total body burden of AGEs, and in turn, the risk of disease.
There are four general categories of dietary AGE-promoters:
Strategies for July 4th (No one wants to be the grinch who hates Independence Day tradition, so here are some tips for reducing AGE formation in grilled food):
- Pre-treat protein with an acid-based marinade for 1-2 hours (lemon, citrus fruit, vinegar base)
- Use herbs, spices and condiments generously
- Choose lean cuts of meat
- Pre-cook protein to reduce the total amount of time on the grill
- Use portion control to eat less meat and up the veggies
- Pair the meal with antioxidant-rich fruit for dessert…especially berries
Strategies for the long term (July 4th strategies hold true all year long / supplement them with these practices that lower AGEs):
- Cook with high smoke-point oils (coconut oil, ghee)
- Practice calorie restriction
- Improve the gut microbiome with fermented and prebiotic foods
- Stick to a low-glycemic diet (especially avoid fructose which causes 10X more glycation than glucose: I’m looking at you, high fructose corn syrup!)
- Increase exercise
- Maintain adequate intake of vitamin B1 and B6
- Quit smoking
This table summarizes dietary AGE-busters:
- Quick note for new mothers: AGEs in infant formula are up to 70-fold higher than in breast milk.
- Can I get tested for AGEs?: Other than the readily available Hemoglobin A1C, AGE testing is currently a research tool.
Lifestyle-related disorders can be meaningfully impacted by lifestyle change. Because these conditions represent the majority of the top ten causes of death in the United States, reducing their incidence prolongs longevity and healthy aging. Lowering AGEs is a simple intervention with much reward. Have a happy, healthy, safe 4th! The SEEDS Plan can help.
Disclaimer: This article was created for informational purposes only, is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Oobroo™ Inc or its staff.
References available on request: email TeamOobroo@oobroo.com
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