Advanced glycation end products (AGEs), or glycotoxins, are a group of highly oxidant compounds that are related to age, certain foods and how we cook them. They play a significant role in diabetes and several other chronic conditions. AGEs are created when proteins, lipids or nucleic acids are exposed to sugars (or “glycated”) in the body through a nonenzymatic reaction. This chemical reaction is known as the Maillard reaction. Their production is part of normal metabolism, but an excess of AGEs can have pathogenic effects and speed up the ageing process. This is because of their oxidative potential, which can cause oxidative stress and inflammation.
Modern diets are also increasingly a source of AGEs, as heat processing is a major contributing factor. Foods like processed meats, dairy products, and many nuts and seeds contain high levels of AGEs. Dietary advanced glycation end products are known to contribute to this oxidation and subsequent inflammation that are linked to recent spikes in diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.
Considering the prevalence of these conditions, encouraging patients to reduce their AGE intake is of great interest to nutritionists and integrative therapists. An anti-inflammatory diet is a good starting point to counteract these effects – and new research suggests a transformative component is mushrooms.
The Components of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Medical professionals from across the spectrum are learning that the best way to reduce inflammation lies not only with medications but also with dietary adjustments. Aside from reducing the intake of AGEs a key response is to increase the intake of foods rich in antioxidants. The benefits are twofold: primarily, these foods are by nature lower in AGEs. Second, these foods enhance the body’s capacity to process the circulating AGEs.
According to research conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, a diet rich in plant-based foods will reduce inflammation. Although there are no safe levels of glycation currently determined, animal studies suggest that halving AGE consumption leads to a reduction in oxidative stress, a longer life, and enhanced kidney function.
Low AGE foods include fruit, grains, legumes, and vegetables. These foods may also help reduce the impact of consuming AGE-rich foods, thanks to their antioxidant properties. Research also suggests that foods with high phenolic acid content may inhibit the formation of AGEs. Equally, berries have also been found to prevent AGE production in the brain.
Reducing Glycation with Mushrooms
The anti-inflammatory foods mentioned are items that are often high on a nutritionist’s list of recommendations regardless of the patients’ complaint. After all, we are all familiar with the benefits of a nutrient-rich, high-fibre diet. However, in regard to inflammation specifically, new research has presented interesting new findings about a particularly beneficial component of an anti-inflammatory diet: mushrooms.
In a study conducted on 39 older people in Japan, it was found that those with a high intake of mushroom in their diet (approximately 15.7g per day) presented lower levels of AGEs in their system when measured from a sample on the upper arm. Mushroom intake was significantly and inversely correlated with AGE levels in the skin. Thus, the study implied that mushrooms were a major contributing factor to lowering glycation .
New Methods for AGE-related Pathologies
More research is needed, but these preliminary studies are compelling. The benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet are significant, especially for those with chronic dietary and cardiovascular conditions. But now, with these new studies, we can begin to formulate a comprehensive approach to reducing AGEs. Moreover, these benefits don’t only extend to those with ongoing conditions – it could also present a strategy to slow the ageing process and enhance well-being. It will be interesting to follow what research emerges in the future.
- Nedić O, Rattan SI, Grune T, Trougakos IP. Molecular effects of advanced glycation end products on cell signalling pathways, ageing and pathophysiology. Free Radic Res. 2013 Aug;47 Suppl 1:28-38.
- Uribarri, J., Woodruff, S., Goodman, S., Cai, W., Chen, X., Pyzik, R., Yong, A., Striker, G. E., & Vlassara, H. (2010). Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(6), 911–16.e12.
- Chen H, Virk MS, Chen F. Phenolic acids inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end products in food simulation systems depending on their reducing powers and structures. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Jun;67(4):400-11.
- Thangthaeng N, Poulose SM, Miller MG, Shukitt-Hale B. Preserving Brain Function in Aging: The Anti-glycative Potential of Berry Fruit. Neuromolecular Med. 2016 Sep;18(3):465-73.
- Kawaguchi, Yaeko & Nirengi, Shinsuke & Kotani, Kazuhiko & Somei, Junichiro & Kawamoto, Takuya & Tsuzaki, Kokoro & Yonei, Yoshikazu & Sakane, Naoki. (2017). Mushroom Intake and Advanced Glycation End Products in the Skin among Community-Dwelling Elderly Subjects: Preliminary Data. Journal of Biomedicine. 2. 8-11. 10.7150/jbm.17587.