Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sugar and AGE's: Advanced Glycation End Products

Imagine the Possibility 

Imagine if there was a pill, scientifically proven to slow aging to a halt. This would inevitably be a billion dollar industry.  Most people would do anything short of a facelift to look ten years younger.  Now what if you were told it was free.  Well, it just might be: sugar free.

Are you willing to make the sacrifice? No more soda, juice, candy, muffins, cake, cookies, ketchup, corn syrup, maple syrup, bread, even fruit! Even with the massive health benefits of a sugar free existence, most of us are not capable of severing the addiction (and diet drinks don't count, we all know that is like taking heroin to cure alcoholism).

Sugar is Thy Enemy!

Why would a kind Creator give us sugar, and then make it deleterious to our health!  Well the truth is nature gave us fruit.  Fruit in its whole state, and in reasonable moderation is very healthful. True it does contain sucrose and fructose, but it is full of enzymes, vitamins, phytochemicals and antioxidants.  In other words it is balanced, it is a whole food.  Man on the other hand was not satisfied. We figured out how to separate the sugar from the healthy stuff! How very clever... and how very dangerous.

Unfortunately for us, we have done this with almost every source of carbohydrate.  We strip grain down to the bare essence of flour, which once in our body acts the same as sweet ol' sugar. Polished and bleached rice is another example. We pull all the vitamins and nutrients out of a food, and then try to get it back in a vitamin pill.

One big problem is that these stripped down sugars are creating advanced glycation end products (AGE's) in our body.  AGE's are the equivalent of rust, in fact it works in much the same way.

Ageless or AGE's

What happens is that we consume sugar. That sugar molecule ends up in our bloodstream, and attaches itself to a protein.  The problem occurs when there is excess sugar in the bloodstream. The sugar binds to protein without the necessary enzyme to guide the process.  This process is called glycation. The enzyme can be seen as the manager who oversees the process, and makes sure everything is done correctly. Things can become chaotic without this enzyme. If enough sugar is consumed over time, and enough glycation occurs we end up with advanced glycation end products. These abnormal proteins have a way of binding together, and creating the equivalent of a junkyard in your body.  One end result is cataracts. Since AGE's have a predilection for collagen proteins, one of their first footholds is saggy, wrinkly skin. Ditto weak joints, bones, tendons and even lungs and arteries.

Gary Taubes, in Good Calories, Bad Calories states "AGE's and the glycation process also appear to play at least one critical role directly in heart disease, by causing the oxidation of LDL particles and so causing the LDL and its accompanying cholesterol to become trapped in the artery wall, which is an early step in the atherosclerotic process. Oxidized LDL also appears to be resistant to removal from the circulation by the normal mechanisms, which would also serve to increase the LDL levels in the blood. As it turns out, LDL is particularly susceptible to oxidation by reactive oxygen species and to glycation."

In other words dietary cholesterol is all well and good for the body until it is placed in jeopardy by high blood sugar.  The sugar binds with the cholesterol and through glycation causes it to become a hardened plaque. In the meantime it is also binding with collagen in artery walls, and they become stiffer and less flexible with age (or should I say AGE's).

Beat the Odds

Fortunately if we are eating a natural primitive diet there will be a very limited amount of sugar in the bloodstream.  Meats, nuts, and vegetables contain almost no sugar.  Fruits have a small, but manageable amount of sugar.  If we eat fruit only when they are in season, it helps us to limit the amount we eat and maximizes the freshness and therefore overall nutrition of a fruit. Winters in Chicago would definitely be fruitless (pun mildly intended)!  Still, if you find yourself choosing between chocolate cake or an orange, go for the orange. Hell eat the whole bag of oranges.

The image at the top was taken from Sugar Stacks, a highly entertaining and informative pictorial of the amount of sugar in common food products.

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