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What is Glycation? And Why You Should Care

Updated: Jul 8

Glycation refers to a chemical reaction that occurs when sugar molecules in the bloodstream bind to proteins or fats without the involvement of enzymes. This process creates harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

When sugar molecules attach to proteins or fats, they can alter the structure and function of these molecules. This can lead to various detrimental effects in the body. Glycation and the formation of AGEs are natural processes that occur to some extent in everyone, but they are accelerated in individuals with high blood sugar levels, such as those with diabetes.

Here are a few key points about glycation and AGEs:

1. Formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs): As sugar molecules attach to proteins or fats, a series of complex reactions take place, leading to the formation of AGEs. These AGEs can accumulate in various tissues throughout the body over time.

2. Impact on tissues and organs: Accumulation of AGEs can have several negative effects. They can cause cross-linking of proteins, impairing their normal function. AGEs can also trigger oxidative stress, inflammation, and damage to cells and tissues.

3. Role in aging and age-related diseases: AGEs have been implicated in the aging process and the development of age-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, and certain complications associated with diabetes, such as kidney disease and neuropathy.

4. Dietary sources of AGEs: In addition to endogenous formation in the body, AGEs can also be obtained through diet. Foods that are cooked at high temperatures, particularly through grilling, frying, or roasting, are more likely to contain higher levels of AGEs. Examples include charred meats, processed foods, and sugary baked goods.

5. Management and prevention: Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is crucial to minimize the production of AGEs. In individuals with diabetes, proper management of blood glucose levels can help reduce glycation and the associated risks. Additionally, dietary choices that focus on whole, unprocessed foods and cooking methods that involve lower heat and shorter cooking times can help minimize the formation of AGEs from food sources.

It's worth noting that while glycation and AGEs play a role in age-related diseases and complications, their exact contributions and mechanisms are still being studied. Researchers continue to explore potential strategies to inhibit glycation and mitigate its negative effects.


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