You hear a lot about oxidation and the importance of anti-oxidants. I want to introduce you to a concept at least as important - glycation. New studies reveal that all of us suffer to some degree by the damage caused by glycation. What is glycation? It is sugar binding to a protein or fat. Glycated fats and proteins are described by scientists as Advanced Glycation End-products, appropriately abbreviated as A-G-Es. A-G-Es damage our bodies by causing cross-linking that leads to intracellular damage and cell death. Think of glycation as caramelization of your body. Essentially, glycation speeds up aging by turning your tissue into CRÈME BRÛLÉE.
Recent research indicates that these damaging end products play a role in skin wrinkles, hypertension, impotence, heart disease, cancer, neurodegeneration (dementia), cataracts, kidney failure and in general - aging itself.
How does one increase glycation and age faster? Eat like most Americans. If you didn’t know better, you might think we are trying to age faster by the way we are eating.
The hemoglobin A1c test is also known as glycosylated hemoglobin. The hemoglobin A1c test is best known as a common test for tracking long-term glucose control in people with diabetes. However, we know realize that the hemoglobin A1c is quite useful for those without diabetes too: The Hemoglobin A1c or glycosylated hemoglobin correlates with age-accelerating glycation reactions in the body. In other words, by monitoring the hemoglobin A1c level, we can identify age accelerating excessive glycation in our bodies and take measures to reduce it.
By the way, another dark side of high A1c levels is their association with higher insulin levels. Higher insulin levels cause increases in blood pressure, appetite, weight, heart disease, cancer and chronic inflammation. In men, impotence and prostate enlargement is also associated with hyperinsulinemia.
An Optimal Level of the Hemoglobin A1c is less than 5%
Research suggests that a hemoglobin A1c level of less than 5% is ideal. It can also be challenging to achieve.
What raises our hemoglobin A1c? Many physicians only consider foods which raise the blood glucose levels as causing the A1c to increase. Surprisingly, blood sugar levels are only part of what increase the A1c. Eating advanced glycosylated end products increase glycation in our body too.
So, Glycation and the hemoglobin A1c rise when:
1. We eat foods that raise our glucose. Sugary, starchy foods cause our glucose to increase and this causes glycation of our proteins.
2. We eat A-G-E rich foods. These glycotoxins cause both direct damage and the expression of genes which accelerate aging.
5 Ways to lower your hemoglobin A1c. reduce glycation and slow aging
1. Eat low sugar foods – those with a lower glycemic load.
This includes vegetables, lower sugar fruits like berries, nuts and some animal products. Avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar, fructose and grains – especially wheat (even whole grain). Animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein are prone to A-G-E formation during cooking. This can be reduced by smart cooking methods - see point 2 below. In contrast vegetables and fruits contain relatively few A-G-Es, even after cooking. Read “Wheat Belly” by William Davis and “Eat to Live” by Joel Fuhrman for more details.
2. Cook Smart: Steam, Stew, Boil or Raw.
You get A-G-Es with dry heat. A-G-Es/glycation are significantly reduced by cooking with moist heat, using shorter cooking times, cooking at lower temperatures and by use of acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar. Low-AGE– generating cooking methods include boiling, poaching, steaming and stewing. The high AGE content of broiled chicken (5,828 kU/100 g) and broiled beef (5,963 kU/100 g) can be signiﬁcantly reduced (1,124 kU/100 g and 2,230 kU/100 g, respectively) when the same piece of meat is either boiled or stewed.
Eating raw foods can often rapidly improve health. Why are raw foods so good for us? Raw foods are rich in nutrients and live enzymes plus they have virtually no A-G-Es. Many have found www.rawfor30days.com to be helpful.
Unfortunately, A-G-Es taste good and many foods are cooked in such a way as to increase their A-G-E content. For optimal health and to slow the aging process you should largely avoid foods which are:
A-G-Es are also found in roasted coffee, cereals, biscuits and chocolate.
The use of acidic marinades such as lemon juice and vinegar before cooking can limit A-G-E generation. Reducing glycation does not require eating cardboard; A-G-E reducing culinary techniques have long been used in Mediterranean, Asian and other cuisines throughout the world to create delicious easily prepared dishes.
3. Exercise regularly. Exercise reduces insulin resistance and lowers blood glucose.
4. Hormonal balance: Thyroid, DHEA, testosterone in men, progesterone in women reduce glycation and help the body repair itself.
5. Supplements to lower glycation include: Cinnamon, garlic, psyllium, chromium, alpha lipoic acid, fish oil, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and L-taurine. Carnosine and benfotiamine help too. Resveratrol helps protect against AGE damage. The enzyme transglucosidase has also shown promise in reducing the release of sugar from starch and converting it to fiber.
How to get a Hemoglobin A1c test
Testing your hemoglobin A1c can help you refine your lifestyle so you feel better and enjoy a longer, healthier life. Getting an A1c level is easy. You can ask your doctor (Hotze Health & Wellness guests will have this test run routinely as of this summer). You can also have many labs run this test without a doctor’s order– i.e. ZRT labs Hemoglobin A1c Blood Spot Test Kit or Life Extension Foundation. Since the Hemoglobin A1c test reflects what you have been doing the past 3 months, you would not want to repeat this test more often than every 3 months.
To your health!
Don Ellsworth, M.D.