All foods contain AGEs—advanced glycation end products—which are naturally occurring toxins. Numerous studies have shown that a buildup of AGEs accelerates the body’s aging process. Over time, by increasing oxidation and free radicals, hardening tissue, and creating chronic inflammation, AGEs lead to a host of chronic diseases. By knowing how to lower your AGE consumption, you can lead a longer, healthier life. Here is an easy-to-use guide to understanding AGEs and identifying those foods that have the least AGEs and those that have the most so that you can make smart dietary decisions.
Helen Vlassara, MD, is Professor Emeritus and former Director of Diabetes and Aging Research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She has devoted over thirty years to studying the effects of advanced glycation end products and has authored hundreds of scientific articles and books.
Sandra Woodruff, MS, RD, LD/N, has a master’s of science in food and nutrition from Florida State University. She specializes in diet-related health problems, and is the best-selling author of many health-related cookbooks, including Soft Foods for Easier Eating Cookbook.
When Dr. Helen Vlassara and researchers at The Rockefeller University of New York began conducting studies on diabetes and its effect on the body, they focused on a fascinating group of complex substances that accumulate in the tissues. What they didn’t know was that they were on their way to making some revolutionary discoveries. Over time, the compounds they explored—called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs—were found to be a cause of not just the devastating complications of diabetes, but also of diabetes itself. Subsequently, these toxic substances were linked to a wide range of other serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, bone and joint problems, and other so-called diseases of aging. Moreover, they learned that most of these compounds enter the human body through the foods that people eat. The more AGEs people consume, the greater the likelihood of harm.
Once the team discovered the undeniable links between high AGE levels in the body, chronic disease, and a diet high in AGEs, they were faced with several questions. How do you count the AGEs in food? Which foods are highest in AGEs, and which foods are lowest? Dr. Vlassara and her colleagues had no option but to take up the task of determining the AGE levels of hundreds of foods. It took over ten years to develop new tools to bridge the gaps in their knowledge. Hundreds of thousands of tests later, they published the AGE levels of a wide range of foods and beverages.
Based on years of research and testing, this book is an easy-to-use guide to the AGE levels in food. Whether you are trying to avoid or manage a medical condition or you simply want to maintain good health, you’re sure to find it invaluable as you learn about AGEs and use the guide to make smart food choices.
The book begins by answering a number of important questions about AGEs. Here, you’ll get a crash course in AGEs—what they are and how they are associated with many conditions. As you already know, the chief source of these toxic substances is the foods you eat, and you’ll learn how to choose and prepare foods in a way that reduces your consumption of AGEs. The fact is that you don’t have to give up the foods you love to lower AGEs and experience greater health. By properly balancing high-AGE choices with low-AGE choices and preparing your foods using simple AGE-less cooking techniques, you can enjoy health-promoting meals that are both delicious and satisfying. In fact, a low-AGE diet has many similarities with the Mediterranean diet, which is renowned for both its fine cuisine and its many health benefits.
After the Q and A section, you’ll find the heart of the book: The AGE food guide, which includes two tables. The first table presents an alphabetical listing of hundreds of common foods and beverages, along with their AGE levels. Here, you can quickly find each food under its name, such as “Cheddar cheese,” “Whole wheat bread,” or “Salmon.” The second table presents foods under logical categories such as “Cheeses,” “Breads,” and “Fish/Seafood.” When you use this table, you’ll be able to see the AGE levels of a variety of choices in a given category. For instance, by searching “Cheeses,” you’ll soon discover that lower-fat Cheddar cheese provides fewer AGEs than full-fat Cheddar, making the lower-fat product a wiser option for a low-AGE diet. Because cooking methods make such a big difference in the AGE levels of certain ingredients, listings of foods like chicken, beef, and eggs include the AGE levels for dishes cooked several different ways. For example, under “Chicken,” you’ll be able to quickly see that poached chicken is far lower in AGEs than grilled or fried chicken, making poaching a healthier choice. You’ll also find that instead of stating specific numbers of AGE kilounits—numbers that can be affected by even minute differences in food samples and other testing variables—this guide identifies the AGE range for each food as being Very Low, Low, Medium, High, Very High, or Highest. This allows you to immediately understand the food’s level of AGEs so that you can evaluate its suitability for your diet. Meanwhile, intriguing tips have been sprinkled throughout the guide, helping you make the best food choices possible.
We believe that what Dr. Vlassara and her team learned about AGEs and their profound negative effects on health and aging is one of the most exciting discoveries of the twenty-first century. Not only did their research identify an important contributor to disease, but it empowered each of us to take control of our own well-being by making simple changes in the way we select and cook our foods. This guide was designed to help you every step of the way. Turn the page, and learn how The AGE Food Guide can change your life.