By: Rachel Neifeld, RD, CDN

When a child is born into the world, we expect them to be healthy, pure, and untainted by the age-inducing, toxic elements that we are sometimes unavoidably exposed to in today’s developed world. A surprising new study may have put a damper on the pristine image. Published in the journal Diabetes Care, this study showed that harmful toxins called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) were transferred from mothers’ blood to their infants, resulting in concentrations in the infants’ blood as high as their mothers. The harmful AGEs which, as their name suggests, play a role in aging, place an infant at higher risk of developing diabetes later in life.

AGEs are non-functioning protein structures formed by a reaction between carbohydrates (sugars) and free amino groups of proteins. In this reaction, a sugar molecule attaches itself to a protein molecule, resulting in a damaged protein called an advanced glycation end product. 

These harmful substances affect nearly every type of cell and molecule in the body and, if elevated at birth, could play a role in inflammation and insulin resistance later in life. High concentrations of AGEs in adults is believed to play a role in many chronic conditions associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s Disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Some AGEs are formed naturally inside our bodies by normal metabolism and aging. Fortunately, though, we do have control over the number of AGEs that develop in our bodies as external factors- such as what we eat and how we prepare our food, can play a big role. A proper diet can help us and our offspring stay “AGE-free” (or at least have reduced blood concentrations of them) as we age. Follow the recommendations below to make sure these harmful substances stay out of your diet for good.

  1. Eat vegetables and fruits raw, boiled, or steamed. Water prevents sugars from binding to protein molecules. By eating fruits and vegetables raw or by cooking them in water or with steam prevents AGEs from forming.
  2.  Limit your consumption of processed and browned foods. Food manufacturers use techniques like caramelization and browning to improve the taste of their products.  These techniques directly increase the number of Advanced Glycation Endproducts contained in these processed foods.
  3. Cook meats low and slow. Higher cooking temperatures will always produce more AGEs than cooking at lower temperatures for a longer time period. Using a crock pot which lets meats and veggies cook at a low temperature is a great way to reduce the formation of AGEs in your meal. 
  4. Drink water.  For many the greatest sources of excess sugar are soft drinks.  Switching to water eliminates this potential contributor to the formation of AGEs within the body while providing a host of other health benefits.