Advanced Glycation End-Products: The Dark Side of Grilled Foods

June 26, 2017
Advanced Glycation End-Products: The Dark Side of Grilled Foods

It’s summer and the grilling season is upon us and with it a multitude of fantastic meals that you can prepare on the grill. Just be sure not to overdo it by burning your favorite grilled food. The problem with blackened foods isn’t just that they might be overcooked, but that the burnt or crispy part contains a substance called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). AGEs can have serious consequences for your health and can even be produced within your own body as a result of an unhealthy diet. Recent research has shown that AGEs contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, schizophrenia, and even infertility.

AGEs: Why They Are Bad For Your Health

Your cells derive the energy they need to keep your body functioning by metabolizing carbohydrates and fats. One of the end-products of metabolism is something called a reactive oxygen species, also know as free radicals. Free radicals are unstable and can cause damage to your body’s cells and your DNA through a process called oxidative stress. Fortunately, your body has an elaborate system to manage free radicals which uses your body’s own supply of antioxidants, like glutathione, as well as antioxidants found in a healthy diet, to inhibit these free radicals. So far, so good.

AGEs are formed in your body naturally as a result of this metabolic process and can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation. Because these toxic end-products accumulate in your body over time, their ill effects are normally kept in check, becoming apparent only as you age. The problem occurs when you eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates and don’t exercise or when your blood sugar is poorly controlled due to a lack of insulin or resistance to insulin, as can be the case with diabetics. It’s then that the amount of sugar and fat in your body overwhelms the capacity of your the cells to process them properly, resulting in increased amounts of AGEs. The accumulation of AGEs in your body contributes not only to the aging process, but more significantly, to the development of chronic degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, the chronic inflammation associated with an accumulation of AGEs may predispose you to cancer.

Perhaps, the best known type of AGE is the one called HbA1C or glycolated hemoglobin, which is formed when the sugar in your bloodstream combines with the protein, hemoglobin. Your healthcare provider measures your HbA1C in order to get a snapshot of your blood sugar levels over a three month period. If you’ve been consuming a lot of refined carbohydrates (pasta, bagels, foods/drinks high in sugar, etc.) during that time or if you’re a diabetic with poorly controlled blood sugar, your HbA1C will be elevated and with it, your risk of accumulating health-damaging AGEs.

AGEs: How You Can Limit Their Impact on Your Health

Your body holds on to two thirds of the AGEs that you directly ingest as well as those produced by your own body as a result of an unhealthy diet. The higher your diet is in foods containing AGEs and in AGE-producing foods/beverages, the faster they will accumulate in the tissues of your body. Exposure to AGEs occurs in three main ways:

  • Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, fructose (found in high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, honey, and in fruit), and fat.
  • Consuming foods that already contain AGEs:
  • Foods that have been exposed to high temperatures and low moisture and, as a result, are browned or blackened/charred.
  • Processed foods:
  • AGEs are actually added to processed foods to improve taste, increase shelf life, and add color and sterility.
  • Processed beverages:
  • Most have a high sugar or fructose content.
  • Use of tobacco products.

Combine any one of these factors with a sedentary lifestyle and you place yourself at high risk for developing a chronic degenerative disease (even among young individuals) and, possibly, cancer.

The good news is that you can dramatically reduce the impact that AGEs have on your health by:

  • Eliminating all processed foods and drinks.
  • Avoid eating foods that have been browned or blackened or cooked at high temperatures.
  • Eating foods rich in antioxidants like Goji berries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, beans, artichokes, pecans, and – in small amounts – dark chocolate.
  • Eating organic, whole fruits high in antioxidants, but keeping in mind that some fruits contain high amounts of fructose (especially, dried fruit, pears, and watermelon)
  • Start exercising.
  • Stop smoking.

By keeping these guidelines in mind, can you safely enjoy the summer grill season and decrease your risk for developing chronic degenerative diseases. If you already suffer from a chronic degenerative illness, ask your healthcare provider for advice on how you can improve your health through lifestyle changes. For more information on how you can achieve wellness through proper nutrition, contact us today.


Baye E et al. Consumption of diets with low advanced glycation end products improves cardiometabolic parameters:meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Sci Rep. 2017 May 23;7(1):2266.

Foster, D et al. AGE Metabolites: a biomarker linked to cancer disparity? Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Oct; 23(10): 2186-91.

Gugliucci A, et al. Short-term low calorie diet intervention reduces serum advanced glycation end products in healthy, overweight or obese adults. Ann Nutr Metab. 2009; 54: 197-201.

Luevano-Conteras C, Chapman-Novakofski, K. Dietary advanced glycation end products and aging. Nutrients. 2010 Dec; 2(12): 1247-65.

Ottum MS, Mistry, AM. Advanced glycation end-products: modifiable environmental factors profoundly mediate insulin resistance. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2015 July; 57(1):1-12.

Takeuchi M. Serum Levels of Toxic AGEs (TAGE) May Be a Promising Novel Biomarker for the Onset/Progression of Lifestyle-Related Diseases. Diagnostics (Basel). 2016 June; 6(2):23.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen and before using nutritional supplements.

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