But what is glycation and if it’s a natural process do I really need to worry about it? Well, if you want to stay healthy, avoid developing life threatening diseases and also keep wrinkles at bay then the answer should be yes.
It’s common knowledge that sugars and carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glucose and fructose which is then used as fuel for the body.
But as we age – or if we consume too much sugar or high-glycemic foods – the sugars react with proteins and fats in an abnormal way. The result of this is that harmful molecules called ‘advanced glycation end products’ are produced. This is glycation.
The more AGEs – the rather appropriate acronym for the above – we have, the more we age.
The proteins in your skin which glycation affects most are collagen and elastin, the very same ones that maintain your plumped up and youthful looking complexion.
So too much sugar can leave your skin weak, discoloured and cause loss of elasticity. On the surface these problems present themselves as wrinkles, loss of radiance and sagging.
In addition glycation causes free radicals to form and oxidative stress speeds up the ageing process.
Although The British Journal of Dermatology reported that after the age of 35, glycation in the skin naturally increases, keeping out of the sun can help because exposure to UV rays accelerates the process too.
People with poorly controlled diabetes have been proven to have higher levels of AGEs. So if you suffer from the disease it’s even more reason to manage your sugar intake because the ageing process is accelerated in sufferers. AGEs have been shown to clog the small blood vessels in the eyes, heart, kidneys, and brain. All too often these organs are affected by diabetes too.
Accumulation of AGEs have also been associated with heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, kidney disease, cataracts and rheumatoid arthritis.
As previously mentioned glycation is a natural process and will happen to us as we age, whether we like it or not, but that’s not to say we can’t managed it and be aware of what can causes high levels.
First and foremost reduce sugar intake. We’re not advising you to cut it out completely, especially since healthy whole grains, fruits and vegetables turn into glucose too but the UK government recommends adults should not consume more than 30g of free sugars per day.
Even the way you cook your food has been shown to affect glycation. All those brown, crispy and delicious foods resulting from being roasted, barbecued, fried and sautéed are high in AGEs.
Stick to healthier cooking methods such as steaming, poaching or boiling.
Red meat and cheese have high AGEs, so if you’re after a dose of protein chicken, fish, eggs or legumes are a better option.
Yoghurt and milk are low in AGEs (reduced fat is better) but steer clear of cream and butter.
Grains, such as rice and porridge oats are low in AGEs but only if they’re not packed into processed, sugary biscuits or crackers and fats from vegetables have fewer AGEs than animal fats.