The Trouble with Wheat #8: AGE’s and Aging

February 06, 2012

The Trouble with Wheat #8:  AGE’s and Aging 

 ReferenceWheat Belly by Bill Davis,  Eric Westman:  The New Atkins for a New You, The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight,  Dr Gundry’s Diet Evolution Aren’t we all aging?  

Well, some are faster than others!  And wheat is central to that problem.  It all has to do with the acronym AGE which stands for Advanced Glycemic End-Products.  When you eat a lot of refined wheat products and have a high glycemic response, which we talked about a couple of weeks back, you also have to understand the chemistry of what happens to that high blood glucose that wheat causes. 

Glucose is quite a chemically reactive molecule.  That’s why it has so much energy packed inside it and makes it so valuable to use as the body’s “gasoline”.  But we have to take care of gasoline for our cars with exquisite care.  We are very cautious about dispensing it with nozzles that soak up the vapors.   We dispense it into our car engines with precise dosing.  That same analogy works for your body with glucose – to a point.   It is our fuel for many of our cells.  

When we eat broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and other low glycemic foods, our blood glucose doesn’t rise very fast or very far, but stays gently elevated in the range our body’s mechanisms can use smoothly.   (In fact, we now know that many of its calories come in the form of short chain fatty acids like beta-hydroxybutyrate from the digestion of plant cellular walls by gastrointestinal bacteria.). When it rises a bit too fast and too far, the reactive quality of glucose kicks in, just because there is too much of it.  

Glucose is sticky and it starts to attach to things. AGE’s are proteins that have had a glucose molecule become inadvertently attached to them just because of the high glucose level.  That glucose gets glomed onto a part of the protein that wasn’t meant to have anything attached to it.  Can you imagine having a softball suddenly welded to your elbow?  You could use your arm, but it would be hard to put on a jacket.  And bending your elbow would be unwieldy.  Can you imagine another softball attached to your ribs, and one to your forehead?  Eventually you would get pretty spastic and have a hard time functioning.  Well, that’s what happens with high glucose.  

Whereever it happens you get dysfunctional proteins.  We can measure it with hemoglobin easily because we can simply draw a tube of blood.  HgbA1c is the name we give to the AGE product of hemoglobin.  That hemoglobin doesn’t work as well as a clean, non-glycosylated hemoglobin.  We want a level below 6.  Five would be nice.  10 is awful.  It provides us with a window into how high our glucose has been internally for the last couple of weeks. 

 Guess what happens with wheat?  High glycemic index means higher blood glucose.  Higher glucose around collagen means stiffer, less stretchy collagen.  Collagen is what makes your skin stretchy and supple, your arteries bend, your joints flexible.  Guess what happens when those things become glycosylated.  They AGE, in both senses.  That’s it in a nutshell.  You look older, function older, feel older.  From wheat. 

 WWW. What will work for me?  Want to look young? Want to not have osteoarthritis? Want to not have wrinkles in your skin?  Eat foods with lower glycemic indexes so your blood sugar is lower.  The chief culprit is wheat.   It doesn’t happen overnight and you can’t go backward very fast, but some things do repair slowly.  If not, bad things happen faster going forward.  You are aging faster than you would otherwise.  You are “rusting”. 

Pop Quiz

1.   What are AGE's?              Answer: Advance Glycemic End Products

2.   When do they show up?              Answer:  With the ingestion of high glycemic foods that make for higher rises in blood glucose.

3.    What is the best know AGE?                    Answer:   Hemoglobin A1c.  The attachment of glucose to hemoglobin.

4.    How do you interpret A1c?                Answer:  Hemoglobin is in red cells. Red cells live about 100 days.  A1c is the measure of percent of hemoglobin molecules with an extra glucose attached.   So, A1c is essentially a surrogate marker for your average glucose over the last 100 days.  Optimal health as defined by the Institute of Medicine is A1c of 5.7 or less.   Diabetes is defined as 6.4 or above.   Out of control diabetes will be 8 and 9 and 12.    Brain health gurus call for A1c of 5.5.   Lower is better.  

 Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160   Brookfield, WI 53045   262-784-5300