It’s grilling season – and with that comes the sizzle and high-heat grill marks on your chicken, fish or (turkey) burgers. While the browning of those foods is important in the taste and texture of our meals, that browning represents a chemical change in our foods where a compound called advanced glycation end products (or AGE) is created. AGE formation occurs when foods that contain proteins, fats and sugars are prepared with high heat cooking methods like frying, grilling, broiling or roasting; and certain foods like animal proteins (especially beef) tend to form high amount of AGE’s when cooked. Processed and packaged foods are also large contributors as well.
AGE formation is significant because of the impact it can have on inflammation. These compounds affect every cell in the body and not only influence the aging process, but also can increase likelihood of developing diabetes or heart disease. AGE formation can accelerate atherosclerosis, or hardening of the artery walls, in addition to forming reactive oxygen species that may damage or disrupt normal blood pressure management and the function of the lining of artery walls. AGE formation has also been shown to occur in hyperglycemic episodes (high blood sugar) in those diagnosed with diabetes, and is thought to be a large contributing factor in the risk of developing of heart disease for this population.
While the “standard” American diet can be high in AGE consumption, there are ways to combat, or limit AGE formation and reduce risk of developing chronic disease associated with inflammation in the body. Limiting highly processed foods, and high heat cooking methods is a great way to start. Focus on increasing vegetables and fruits in the diet to increase intake of antioxidants. Whole grains and plant based proteins are not only lower in fat but have also been shown to decrease inflammatory markers as well.
For more information on diet, inflammation or diabetes, contact Beacon Health & Fitness dietitian Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org.