The Hidden Dangers of Cooking

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Before you cook that chicken breast to a perfect golden brown or caramelize those onions to add to your favorite dish, you may want to heed the latest research.

Browning your food – the cooking term is “caramelizing” – occurs when sugar molecules attach to protein.

Though your taste buds are enjoying the party, the rest of your body is paying the price.
When the sugar attaches to the protein, a series of other reactions occur called glycation that causes proteins to stick together. When proteins stick together, it is called “cross linking”. The official term for these cross-linked proteins is Advanced Glycation End products, or AGEs.1

When these “sticky proteins,” or AGEs, build up, that’s when the real trouble begins. These AGEs can gather in any number of tissues in the body, and the basic result is that the tissue gets “stiffer”. When tissues get stiffer, they don’t work as they should.

AGEs have been associated with a number of diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.2

Preventing the build up of AGEs may be an important factor in preventing many age-related diseases. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Avoid eating foods that have been heated for prolonged periods of time, particularly meats, fats, and broiled foods.3 That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat quality meat, just don’t overcook and prevent browning if possible. Cooking with water prevents caramelizing – like steaming or boiling.
  • AGEs can be inhaled through cigarette smoke.4 As if you needed another reason to quit!

Here are some supplements that have been shown to slow down AGE formation:

  • Carnosine – An excellent overall antioxidant, carnosine hasbeen shown to prevent cross linking.5 Carnosine levels drop dramaticallywhen we age, so supplementation is a good idea, 100 – 200mg a day.
  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) – Has been shown to reduce AGE formation. Vitamin B6 is also a good antioxidant and helps withmetabolism of carbohydrates. 300-500 mg a day.
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) – Another good substance to slow downAGE formation. An important part of carbohydrate metabolism, vitamin B1is also known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 1.5 mg a day.

An important note, high blood sugar levels can greatly increase cross linking and AGEs. So avoid a high sugar diet, or your sweet tooth may cost you more than an extra trip to the dentist.

1. Mark Stibich, Ph.D., “How Sugar Makes Us Age – Protein Cross-Linking and Aging”
2. Nieske Zabriskie, ND. AGEs and Cross-Linkages, Their Role in Weight Gain, Heart Health, and a Surprising Number of Conditions
3. Koschinsky T, He CJ, Mitsuhashi T, Bucala R, Liu C, Buenting C, Heitmann K, Vlassara H. Orally absorbed reactive glycation products (glycotoxins): an environmental risk factor in diabetic nephropathy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jun 10;94(12):6474-9.
4. Cerami C, Founds H, Nicholl I, Mitsuhashi T, Giordano D, Vanpatten S, Lee A, Al-Abed Y, Vlassara H, Bucala R, Cerami A. Tobacco smoke is a source of toxic reactive glycation products. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Dec 9;94(25):13915-20.
5. Hipkiss AR. Would carnosine or a carnivorous diet help suppress aging and associated pathologies? Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 May;1067:369-74.

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