Glycation Connection

posted by on May 25th, 2016

You know that harmful toxins are everywhere. They are found in your food, environment, and metabolism…creating oxidative stress in your body.  Experts agree, chronically elevated oxidative stress is not just an environmental issue but is also associated with high sugar diets.  The link between sugar and disease is nothing new, and you likely wouldn’t be surprised to know that elevated sugar consumption causes harm.  Everybody knows, sugar in excess quantities or over long periods of time, wreaks havoc on our tissues.  But did you know HOW these bodily stresses; both environmental and internal are linked speeding up aging, disease and stealing your energy?  It is called glycation.

“How are you minimizing glycation?”

Sandwiched in between discussions about oxidative stress and chronic inflammation is something called GLYCATION? What is glycation?  You’ve no doubt had hard candy, caramelized onions or glazed meat at a BBQ.  All of these are examples of glycation – where sugars or starches (complex sugars) are bound abnormally to either fat or protein.  This abnormal link or bond is called a cross linkage.  The cross linkage, in the presence of high heat OR elevated chemical exposure transforms the food into a gelatinous or hardened form.  Over time or with greater exposure that same glycation can take place in your tissues as a result.  Cross linking is responsible for wrinkles, loss of range of motion and even hardening of arteries and other otherwise elastic tissue.

Glycation is crafty and can sneak up on us. The glycation is responsible for many of the flavors we appreciate in well prepared meals.  The problem is these great tasting foods may also lead to risk for disease and can be a serious cause of compromised organ function if left unmanaged.

This higher sugar state is further complicated by the growing consumption of fast foods, fried fats and the over-indulgence in chemical enhancements to convenience foods, or chemicals found in our environment.

“How does glycation from my food choices impact my tissue?”

Glycation moves on from your foods and occurs in your body and to your organs when tissues are exposed, over a prolonged period of time, to elevated blood sugars, foods that are glycated and when environmental toxins lead to insurmountable oxidative stress. The end result is production of what are called Advanced Glycation End products or AGE’s.

Researchers and medical experts recognize a growing concern in the health of the nation as we see an exponential rise in chronic health conditions, previously thought to be reserved for later decades of life (1) and intimately linked to AGE’s. According to the United Health Foundation (2), baby boomers will be sicker than the previous generations.  The report predicts 65 year old will account for an increase of 55% greater diabetes diagnosis over the next 14 years compared to numbers of 65 years old diagnosed in 2016.  Health care costs are roughly 2.5 times greater for this population.

AGEs, like pushing over a row of dominoes, leads to a string of problematic chemical reactions in the body if not stopped. AGEs induce oxidative stress and carbonyl stress, instigating degenerative changes that damage organs and tissues throughout the body.  In today’s world, we are seeing this sped up considerably.

Think about pollutants in our air, occupational concerns like exposure to chemicals in manufacturing facilities or in a hair salon, for example, along with damaging lifestyle habits, like smoking that lead to elevated oxidative stress. This is how we may all be at risk even when we pay attention to our diet.

The body has the ability to naturally neutralize harmful AGE compounds, however it may not be completely successful if the body is exposed to elevated AGE’s through environment, lifestyle and diet.

Dietary interventions that reduce the consumption of foods high in AGEs, like processed foods, foods that turn to sugar quickly or the combination of high heat and proteins, can be effective in helping prevent these metabolic disorders. Slow cooking and establishing adequate intake of plant nutrients to balance the intake of some foods that increase glycation are other steps you can take to limit risk of AGE’s.  In addition, depending on occupational and environmental risk, it may be necessary to look beyond diet and think of other ways to support healthy detoxification, metabolism and blood sugar support.

In the end, staying healthy through all decades of life requires a full spectrum approach to diet, lifestyle and supplementation. This combination can be extraordinarily beneficial at sabotaging the chain of events that glycation unleashes when done so properly and thoughtfully.

1-Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2016 Mar 25; Insulin sensitizers prevent fine particulate matter-induced vascular insulin resistance and changes in endothelial progenitor cell homeostasis.

2-United Health Federation. 2016 May 25; Baby Boomers will become sicker seniors than earlier generations.