Aging Forces: Glycation
One of the most important anti-aging strategies to utilize is to control our blood glucose (sugar) levels. Elevated blood glucose levels are a common cause of accelerated aging. Elevated glucose levels damage cells throughout the body. One of the mechanisms in which high glucose levels promote aging is via the process called glycation. Glycation occurs when glucose combines with proteins in cells and disrupts cell function. High glucose levels literally “gums up the works”. Think of how sticky the floor is when you spill a glass of juice! This is how elevated glucose acts in the body, sticking to things it shouldn’t. For example, when glycation occurs blood flow is impaired, often damaging organs throughout the body, including the brain, heart and kidneys.
The “cross-linking” or combination of glucose with cellular proteins produces advanced glycation end products which are extremely destructive to the body. These advanced glycation end products have the acronym AGEs because of their role in the aging process. AGEs accelerate your rate of aging. AGEs accumulate everywhere in the body and injure all cells and organs.
Elevated glucose levels produce elevated AGEs, promote inflammation, increase oxidation, contribute to an increase risk of degenerative diseases including cancer, and promote fat storage. An effective anti-aging strategy must utilize means to balance blood glucose levels.
Some common examples of cell damage from elevated glucose and excessive production of AGE’s include skin wrinkling and cataract formation (cloudy appearance to the lens of the eye). Indeed, sugar is the perfect wrinkle fertilizer! Remember, sugar is not only damaging externally, to our skin and eyes, it damages cells throughout the body effecting our internal health as well.
People with elevated blood glucose levels, such as diabetics and pre-diabetics, become prototypes of accelerated aging. They are at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, dementia, kidney disease, and most degenerative diseases, many decades before other people of the same chronological age.
Fortunately, with the right lifestyle changes, we can improve blood glucose control and often reverse the erosive force of glycation.
The most effective way to diminish glycation is via our diet choices. We focus on food choices that don’t excessively elevate our blood glucose levels. The food choices that contribute the most to high glucose and excessive glycation are processed carbohydrates. The best carbohydrate choices are the ones that provide nutrients without excessively raising our blood glucose levels.
Virtually any carbohydrate that is not a whole fruit or vegetable is processed. Processed carbohydrates cause the blood glucose to soar to excessive levels in the blood fueling glycation. The body will store excess glucose as fat. So a diet that includes too much processed carbohydrates not only accelerates the aging process, but also increases fat storage and contributes to obesity.
Processed carbohydrates to minimize/avoid include soda, cookies, candy, most breads, most grains, cereals, rice and pasta. Particularly damaging is high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup accelerates glycation and the formation of AGE’s. High fructose corn syrup is found in processed foods such as soda’s, candy, and cereals.
Best carbohydrates are non-starchy vegetables and whole fruits. These carbohydrates are nutrient dense and low glycemic, meaning they don’t excessively elevate our sugar levels in the bloodstream.
When we combine protein, fat and fiber with our healthy carbohydrate choices, we slow the glucose rise that occurs after eating and diminish glycation.
In our anti-aging lifestyle we utilize diet, exercise, nutrient supplementation, hormone balance and stress reduction to help balance blood glucose levels and lower glycation rates. The foundation of our anti-aging lifestyle is a diet that lowers the rate of glycation and decreases the rate of aging.