Have you ever considered the effect on your health of a piece of burnt toast? If you are a family member of mine, then you’ll know that this is one thing that I never eat. I refuse point blank, to be honest. So I was fascinated by a study that I saw yesterday, all about advanced glycation end products, aka AGEs.
Advanced glycation end products are the metabolites that are formed from sugar combining with protein when a food is burned. They give the browned look to baked goods, or anything that you roast, fry or grill. Chargrilled foods contain hundreds, if not thousands of them. Good for the taste buds, but really not good for your health.
Once consumed, AGEs are understood to cause:
- oxidative damage
- blood vessel stiffening
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- kidney disease
- neurological damage
They are also thought to be a key driver of the ageing process.
Unfortunately once AGEs have formed, they cannot be reversed. In addition, our ability to remove them from our bodies declines with age. Now do you see why I won’t eat burnt toast?!
AGEs: not just harmful, but appetite-boosting
However, this latest study has also unveiled an additional dimension to their impact – a heightened appetite for more AGEs. This finding raises the question: are we choosing our foods, or are our foods making us choose them?
Just ultra-processed foods have a ‘sweet spot’ of fats and carbohydrates (sugars) that keep us wanting more, so, according to this study do foods high in AGEs.
Dr. Kapahi, a key contributor to this research, suggests that understanding the signalling pathway behind this mechanism of action could provide insights into overeating given that many modern diets are rich in AGEs.
“Our study emphasises that AGEs accumulation is involved in diseases, including obesity and neurodegeneration. We think that overall, limiting AGEs accumulation is relevant to the global increase in obesity and other age-associated diseases”, he states.
Simple steps to reduce their impact on health
As well as eating to support a healthy weight, such as keeping to low GL carbohydrates, intermittent fasting, and ensuring good amounts of quality protein with each meal, there are two specific recommendations that the study makes to reduce the amount of AGEs in your diet:
1. Cook with wet heat: when cooking, opt for methods like steaming rather than frying or grilling, which can reduce the formation of AGEs.
2. Add some acidity: introducing acidic ingredients into your cooking can slow down the reactions that lead to the formation of advanced glycation end products. Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, or foods such as berries and tomatoes all have low pHs and may help to reduce AGEs.
So next time you brown your toast, or chargrill a burger, think… do you really want to eat those AGEs?
1. Muniesh M. S. et al. Methylglyoxal-derived hydroimidazolone, MG-H1, increases food intake by altering tyramine signaling via the GATA transcription factor ELT-3 in Caenorhabditis elegans. eLife. 2023