Glycation 24 August 2009
Glycation is one theory of ageing. It occurs when excess glucose accumulates in our tissues and forms bonds with proteins, enzymes, DNA and cell membranes. This is known as the Maillard Reaction. The glues that cross-link the proteins together are carbonyl groups. The resulting complexes are large aggregates of damaged proteins known as Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE) or Amadori products. They are the most dangerous type of free radical of all and cannot be unmade, only prevented.
Physiological consequences of AGE’s include:
- loss of function of cells. This is one of the reasons people with diabetes experience complications. They are particularly involved in diabetic retinopathy.
- moving anabolic to catabolic metabolism
- increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease by oxidizing LDL
- increasing cholesterol production by the liver
- tissue damage including cataracts, kidney damage and hypertension
- accelerated aging
- mutation of DNA (leading to cancer)
Glycation is a normal part of aging. It starts after the age of 20 and is accelerated by high blood sugar, and excessive iron and copper levels. Glycation is increased by high glycaemic index foods which cause a rapid spike in blood glucose because of their easy digestibility. The longer the sugar remains elevated, the higher the levels of AGE’s reach. To decrease glycation, avoid refined sugars and other high glycaemic carbohydrates. Consume predominantly food in its natural state— reduce it if it requires a label, packaging or has been processed. Browned, charred or over cooked foods are high in AGE products. Diet soft drinks also cause high levels of AGE’s.
Research has shown that glycation can be dramatically reduced by alpha lipoic acid, flavanoids, green tea, carnosine and N-acetyl-cysteine.