Advanced Glycation End Products

This blog is by Kathleen Biederman, AGNP-C at Precision.

Working with patients here at PRFM we discuss diet a lot during our Functional Medicine visits. After all, the nutrient quality of foods you eat every day plays a major role in how the body heals and regenerates itself over a lifetime.

“Glycotoxins” are a diverse group of compounds that induce disease-promoting inflammation in the body. They come from the diet or are produced internally and are created by the chemical reaction between free amino acid groups from protein with sugar compounds, in what is called the Maillard reaction. These chemical end products are referred to as “advanced glycation end products” or “AGEs”. This reaction is similar to “caramelizing” when cooking sugar at high temperature. That browned or blackened crust you see in the frying pan or on the grill is made of AGEs!

AGEs are well known to play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic diseases including diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia, among others. AGE compounds in the body alter the structure and integrity of tissues and impair cellular functions. Years of high AGE exposure contribute to stiffening of collagen and fragility of bone, and caramelizing of the cartilage in the joints. AGEs disturb artery walls and promote degeneration of nerve fibers.

While AGE-rich foods have been shown to contribute significantly to the body’s AGE pool, uncontrolled high blood sugar in diabetes induces endogenous production of AGEs. The internal “caramelization” of sugars and amino acids explains the broad deterioration of tissues and organs that accompanies diabetes. Glycation in eye lens protein, for instance, is considered one of the mechanisms for diabetic cataracts, which is a leading cause of blindness. Vision changes, kidney failure, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet are consequences of chronic AGE-induced inflammation in diabetes.

This problem is not only reserved for diabetics. High refined sugar and carbohydrate diets in people without diabetics achieve the same undesired results.

Understanding how to reduce dietary AGEs by thoughtful food selection (i.e., carbohydrate-rich foods rather than foods high in protein and fat ) and preparation (i.e., moist moderate heat rather than high-temperature dry heat cooking) as well as increasing dietary anti-oxidants will lower the load of glycotoxins over time. Studies show that avoiding dietary AGEs and controlling blood sugar delay chronic disease progression and aging.

If you are curious about your own inflammatory biomarkers, have questions about diet, or want to optimize your health, we are here to help you. Our Functional Medicine visits provide a tailored approach to health assessment and treatment to guide you. If you are interested in this sort of evaluation give us a call!

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