Sometimes you get the impression that science keeps changing its mind about healthy eating. But there is one food that scientists have long agreed on: sugar. Find out why sugar is (unfortunately!) so bad for us, what it has to do with toast, and what we can do about it in this article.
What are AGEs?
Advanced Glycation end products, also known as "AGEs" (advanced glycation end-products), are molecules that are harmful to our health. AGEs are formed when protein or fat combines with sugar in the bloodstream. This biological process is called the Maillard reaction - a term you may remember from chemistry class - and yes, it's the same process as toasting a piece of bread. And just like burnt toast, the reaction is irreversible. Therefore, AGEs cannot be broken back down into proteins and sugar molecules.
High blood sugar levels accelerate the formation of AGEs. In addition, we can ingest AGEs through foods. Foods that are cooked with high heat (e.g., by grilling or deep-frying) contain particularly high levels of AGEs.
Why are AGEs harmful?
The formation of AGEs can damage cells by impairing the function of a variety of proteins. Therefore, high AGEs concentrations are associated with a number of associated with a number of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and cataracts, and premature cell aging.
What can I do to reduce AGEs?
To reduce the formation of AGEs, it can help to keep blood sugar levels low and avoid blood sugar spikes. One way to do this is by reducing your sugar intake, eating fiber-rich foods as a starter (e.g., a salad) to slow the absorption of carbohydrates, and by exercising after eating.