AGEs are an acronym for Advanced Glycation End Products. These AGEs build up when we consume products with high glycemic index. These may include foods with white in it, such as potatoes, sugars, and white bread. Preventing the buildup of AGEs is thought to not only age our skin with structural damage to it, but also lead to earlier disease and death.
AGEs can impact nearly every cell in the human body. From a cardiovascular perspective (heart), AGES are thought to cause LDLs to get trapped within the walls of blood vessels creating atherosclerosis. Other diseases where AGEs may play a role include diabetes, cataracts, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and premature aging of skin.
So how do AGEs affect your skin?
Essentially, sugar and collagen as well as AGEs can lead to inflammation of the skin, cross-linking of the skin and inhibition of skin cell growth. Why is this a bad thing? Cross linking essentially glue proteins together preventing the structure from functioning correctly. Aged skin has an abundance of cross linking while in younger skin cross-linking is not present. An example of cross linking in real life can be seen with an apple. If you cut it and watch it react with the air, the apple will change color from white to yellowish brown. Eventually the apple becomes tougher and the characteristics of the apple change in part due to cross linking. Similarly with aging, we can see a build up of irregular proteins and texture changes (pigmentation and skin wrinkles and texture) over time.
So what to do about AGEs and their prevention and control?
First of all identifying foods which are more likely to form AGES is critical and include avoiding sugary foods (look at a food’s glycemic index) as well as processed foods and prepackaged foods. AGEs are also found in animal derived foods (especially red meats). Seafood on the other hand tends to be low in AGEs. Cooking foods with dry heat, especially meats, can increase the formation of AGEs as well. Slow cooking and boiling, steaming and marinating foods with citrus or acid tends to lower AGE formation. Cooking vegetables had a lower impact on AGE formation and cooking with vinegar or lemon had the least amount of AGE formation.
Future therapies for AGEs include the use of alpa-lipoic acid, taurine, aspirin, and Vitamin C. As is often stated, healthy skin is often an indicator of overall health of a person. Eating properly while avoiding excessive sun damage combined with appropriate skin care routines and maintenance can help promote a healthy appearance and lifestyle.