It’s a New AGE: How You Cook may be Deadly!

May 15, 2007

It’s a New AGE:  How You Cook may be Deadly! 

 Competency # 19: Food Safety                           ReferenceHelen Vlassara in the April 2007 issue: J Gerontology Medical Sciences 

 AGEs: Advanced Glycation End-Products.  These are sugar and protein molecules that are made by high heat.  Grilling out on your backyard grill with lots of sweet barbeque sauce on ribs may be a formula for trouble.  “Hot off the presses”, this article has sparked a worldwide flurry of repeat articles this last weekend.  AGE products may be as deadly for you as trans fats. AGEs are formed when you get high heat by grilling, broiling or frying food.  The amount that’s in your blood seems to be determined by how much AGE you eat, not by the total number of calories or fats you eat.  

And they set off a perverse cascade of inflammation in your blood.  They have been linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.  Gadzooks, that’s the gamut of what goes wrong in our aging process. What the authors of the study also point out is that AGEs go up with your age.  Your body gets less and less able to clear them from your blood.  This is probably because our kidney function slows with aging.  But they aren’t easily removed from the body. 

 Dr. Vlassara took 172 healthy people and followed their diet precisely to determine how much AGE products they consumed.  What they found was that folks over age 65 had 35% more AGE products in their blood.  The higher the level of AGEs, the higher the level of CRP (and other markers of inflammation).  The AGE products they measured had exotic names like carboxymethyllysine (CML) and methylglyoxal (MG), which are the AGEs that then latch onto proteins and fats. There is hope.  

You can lower your AGE consumption dramatically.  Lower the heat, keep water content high, don’t burn, broil, sear or fry.  Soups, salads and stews are better than grilled, fried, broiled. What you eat is what you get. Dr. Vlassara suggests that this may even turn into lifespan enhancement if you can project animal data onto humans.  We can’t be sure of that, nor can we ethically or even possibly get humans to eat a diet of low AGEs vs. high AGEs.  That’s the problem with all food research.  

But the short-term data is compelling. And the historical association of eating fried, broiled and grilled foods compares directly to our epidemic of heart and vascular disease. AGEs products may be as serious for you and me as trans fats and cigarette smoking. 

 WWW:  What will work for me?  Just as I took off the cover to my grill, I find out I can’t grill out as much.  This information intuitively fits with a lot of other data.  It’s the Alzheimer’s thing that spooks me.  So, more stews?  More British food?  That’s an oxymoron.  My great-great-great….grandparents left England, in part, I’m certain, because of the cuisine.  This will be tough unless I can find something I like:  Indian food!  Curries are stews.  Let’s all get on board with more vegetarian curries.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield WI. (262-784-5300)