TruAge ABCs of AGEs
AGEs affect our lives in so many ways.
We’re giving you the AGE rundown,
one letter of the alphabet at a time.

The terminology used when discussing AGEs and the havoc they wreak can be downright confusing. Luckily, you don’t have to be a science whiz to understand what AGEs are, how they’re formed, and what they do to the body.

The following is the first of our two-part post designed to help you better understand some of the key terms associated with AGEs, one letter at a time:

  • Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs)

    AGEsare harmful compounds that develop in the body or are ingested through food. High levels of AGEs have been linked to premature aging on the inside and outside of the body. They are also linked to virtually every serious health concern faced today.

  • Brain

    An increasing amount of evidence has linked AGEs to various disorders of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. There are numerous theories behind this. When AGEs attack the brain, they trigger inflammation. Studies have also suggested that AGEs create aggregates that interfere with healthy neuron function in the brain.

  • Collagen

    One of the ways AGEs make you look older is through their attack on collagen. Collagen is one of the proteins found in the skin. Collagen fibers bind together, making them strong and resistant to stretching, keeping skin firm and supple. AGEs bind to collagen and weaken them, so they’re no longer effective. The result? Wrinkles, sagging skin, and an overall older look.

  • Diabetes

    Much of the research conducted and subsequent information we’ve learned about AGEs began with diabetes research. Diabetic individuals have higher levels of blood sugar and form more AGEs as a result. AGEs are now known to cause or be a major contributor in many of the complications associated with diabetes.

  • Elastin

    Elastin is another protein found in the skin. It allows the skin to stretch and then spring back. For example, elastin is what makes the skin on a pregnant woman’s stomach increase in size, then eventually return to its normal size once the baby is born. AGEs also bind to elastin, breaking them down so the skin is no longer elastic. The loss of elasticity is another cause of sagging skin and wrinkles, particularly in the neck and eyelids.

  • Free radicals

    In simplified terms, free radicals are damaged cells that are missing a key molecule. Desperate to replace this missing molecule, these renegade cells charge through the body, killing and damaging healthy cells in the process. Free radicals create a vicious and harmful cycle by stimulating the production of AGEs, which in turn creates even more free radicals.

  • Glycation

    This is the process by which AGEs are actually formed. Glycation occurs when excess sugar molecules combine with proteins and fats. This results in the creation of AGEs.

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup

    If you want to avoid AGEs, start with this stuff—high fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener found in just about every unhealthy food. While some controversy exists over whether HFCS is actually more harmful to the body than regular table sugar, studies have shown that it actually increases the rate of glycation by 10 times.

  • Inflammation

    AGEs have been shown time and time again to increase inflammation in the body. In fact, high levels of AGEs are found in the blood of patients with many of the diseases associated with inflammation, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and more. The free radicals produced by AGEs also stimulate inflammation.

  • Joints

    The effects of AGEs can be seen in the joints as well. The inflammation produced by AGEs can lead to aching joints throughout the body. This is one of the ways AGEs make us feel older than we actually are.

  • Kidney

    The kidneys play an important role in overall health, but too many AGEs in the diet keep them from functioning properly. A growing number of studies have linked AGE accumulation to kidney (also called renal) failure and have found AGEs are present in much larger quantities in patients with chronic renal failure. In fact, one study found that chronic renal failure patients with high levels of AGEs who received kidney transplants had lower levels of AGE accumulation after receiving the transplant.

  • Lipids

    Remember, AGEs can be formed when sugar combines with protein or with lipids. Lipids are fats inside the body. In healthy amounts, they provide necessary bodily functions, including storing energy, helping develop healthy cells, and producing necessary hormones. When combined with sugar, however, they morph into harmful AGEs.

  • Malliard Reaction

    Named for the French chemist Louis-Camille Malliard, the Malliard Reaction is the chemical process that causes food to brown. Examples of the Malliard Reaction include turning bread to toast, browning meat on the stove top, or caramelizing onions. The Malliard Reaction creates AGEs in food.

  • Neuropathy

    Diabetic neuropathy is a general term used to describe damage to the nerves caused by diabetes. This damage leads to sensory loss, sharp pains, numbness in the limbs, and other problems. Diabetic neuropathy is also the leading cause of amputations that don’t involve accidents or trauma. Numerous studies have linked high levels of AGEs to neuropathy in diabetes patients.

  • Oxidant

    Remember our blurb on antioxidants and free radicals from Part 1? Free radicals are the rogue molecules that tear through the body, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Free radicals are substances known as oxidants, which are harmful forms of oxygen in the body. AGEs are also oxidants. They cling to our healthy organs and tissues, corroding them the same way rust damages a car.

  • Proteins

    AGEs cause proteins to stick together, which is one of the ways AGEs damage the body and result in premature aging. Over time, these AGE-infested proteins become inflexible. This is one of the reasons why our joints and muscles become stiff and rigid over time.

  • Quantity

    One of the keys to controlling AGEs is to control the quantity of certain things you put into your body. Avoid foods with a high quantity of AGEs, including sugary and fattening foods, processed foods, and grilled or broiled meats. Instead, eat foods with a low quantity of AGEs, including fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

  • R-AGE

    RAGE stands for the Receptor for Advanced Glycation End-products. In very simplified terms, RAGEs are part of the immune system that bind to AGEs and help eliminate them. While RAGE helps defend the body from AGEs, they also create a few problems in the process. When they combine with AGEs, they trigger inflammation. Inflammation is a key contributor to many diseases.

  • Sugar

    Sugar is the main culprit in AGE formation and accumulation. Too much sugar in the diet not only creates a myriad of AGEs and health problems, but it does it fast—in one study, participants who ate a controlled diet that contained high levels of fructose (a form of sugar) gained new fat around their heart, liver, and other organs in just 10 weeks. Fat that’s packed between and around the organs, called visceral fat, is the most dangerous of all.

  • Temperature

    Food AGEs are created under high-temperature, dry heat conditions, including frying, grilling, browning, broiling, and caramelizing. Limit AGEs by cooking at lower temperatures and cooking with water. Slow cooking, stewing, boiling, and braising are all low-AGE cooking methods.

  • UV exposure

    Excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays not only damages your skin by reducing collagen levels, but it also speeds up the glycation process. As you might remember from yesterday’s post, glycation is the process that creates AGEs themselves.

  • Vessels

    AGE accumulation is linked to a number of cardiovascular issues, primarily because of their effect on blood vessels. Have you ever had a clogged drain that gets backed up from hair and other gunk that sticks to the pipes? AGEs have a similar effect on the blood vessels. Remember, AGEs are oxidants (harmful forms of oxygen). They oxidize lipoproteins, which causes them to become sticky and cling to the walls of blood vessels, slowing and potentially blocking blood flow to the heart or brain.

  • Weight

    Type 2 diabetes research has provided us with a great deal of insight on AGEs. Many of the complications associated with this type of diabetes are the result of AGEs. Type 2 diabetes is almost always associated with excess body weight or a higher than normal BMI. So, controlling your weight by exercising and eating less sugary, fattening, and AGE-rich foods can help you ward off diabetes and AGEs.

  • EXercise

    Exercise is one of the best ways to combat AGE formation. Studies have shown that even moderate regular exercise reduces AGEs in the body.

  • Youthful

    Taking steps to control AGEs in the body can help you feel younger, longer. Limiting AGEs can restore or prolong a youthful appearance and way of life.

  • Zinc

    Zinc is a mineral not only found in nature, but in our bodies as well. In particular, it plays an essential role in skin health. Multiple clinical trials have found that zinc is also an anti-glycating agent (ie, AGE buster). It helps protect the skin from AGE damage by limiting cell death and fortifying skin against the loss of elasticity and firmness. (FYI, zinc is one of the most potent ingredients in our soon-to-be-unveiled skincare product.)

    So there you have it—essential AGE information from A-Z. Every day, we’re learning more and more about AGEs, and we’ll be sure to pass that information along to you. The more we know about AGEs and the better we understand the effects they have on our health and vitality, the more empowered we will become in helping spread AGE awareness. Ultimately, these efforts will help people all across the world live younger, longer.

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