It is, however, a major phenomenon of degradation of our tissues, responsible in particular for their loss of elasticity and flexibility in aging, and many other damages…
Glycation or glycosylation of proteins
The glycation reaction
In our body, this reaction takes place between sugars (for example glucose) and essentially proteins or amino acids. It is a normal reaction (called glycosylation) that is used to make glycoproteins useful for the functioning of the body, and controlled by some of our enzymes. It is favored by high levels of glucose in the blood (high blood sugar) but other sugars, such as milk galactose and especially fructose (50 times more), are even more apt to trigger this reaction which can then become too important and unhealthy.
On the other hand, this sugar-protein binding can occur under other conditions, without using our enzymes. It is then pathological.
To simplify, we will not detail the 3 phases of this reaction but only the third, the one that irreversible. It’s here ” Maillard reaction » known for a long time (1912), which is observed in the browning of foodstuffs over time or during strong cooking (above 120°). We see it every day in the kitchen in the browning of cooked meat, fried potatoes, cheese au gratin, etc. It is a kind of “caramelization” of proteins that is done with sugars (carbohydrates). This slight ‘scorch’ of food can excite our taste buds but it is toxic to our health, our body being ill-equipped to get rid of it.
Glycotoxins (or AGEs)
Glycation gives rise to compounds, “glycotoxins” (or AGEs Advanced Glycation End products) where several protein elements link together, thus losing their mobility. This decreases the flexibility of the structures concerned (collagen in particular). It promotes fibrosis of tissues which lose their elasticity but it can also disrupt the internal functioning of our cells (intracellular glycation). The cell hardly knows how to eliminate glycotoxins from glycation. These toxins accumulate there over time, leading to cell death.
Acrylamide is one of the most toxic glycotoxins, especially for our neurons. Unfortunately, it has been increasingly present in our diet in recent decades. A lot occurs during the high temperature cooking of products rich in starch and asparagine (an amino acid): cereals, potatoes, pastries, biscuits, etc.
Aging and glycotoxins
Our body also produces glycotoxins in small quantities and this production increases with age. In addition, our kidneys, which normally eliminate more than 2/3 of our glycotoxins, also see their function diminish as we age.
However, the amounts of glycotoxins from our food western modern are without common measure (millions of times more) with those which our body produces. And we can avoid them…
Many studies show correlations between the glycotoxin load and the development of age-related diseases: arteriosclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cataracts, osteoarthritis…
In our body, the tissues “caramelize”
Arteriosclerosis, where blood vessels lose their flexibility, is a good example. This hardening phenomenon can be observed on all tissues, in particular: the skin, the lens of the eye, the tendons and joint capsules, etc.
Various compounds resulting from glycation can be deposited on the walls of the vessels. Those of the kidney and the retina, which are particularly thin, are more exposed. Glycation lesions are found in the diabetes (due to excess glucose in the blood), the disease ofAlzheimer’sfrom retinopathies and certain kidney diseases… Note that glycotoxins are particularly harmful to nervous tissue.
Advanced glycation is a slow but quasi-irreversible and cumulative reaction. In addition, it promotes oxidation reactions (with formation of free radicals) as well as theinflammation, which also accelerate aging. Blood hypercoagulation and increased cholesterol levels are also favored.
The glycotoxins generated by glycation can slow down the action of our hormoneour enzymes, antioxidants and certain mechanisms of immune defense. They are toxic to the kidney and can lead to kidney failure, as in diabetes.
Fight against glycation to maintain tissue elasticity
Are you glycated?
Some easy to spot signs are related to glycation processes and can give an indication:
- brown spots of the skin
- opacity of the lens of the eye
- loss of skin suppleness (increased skin fold disappearance time when pinching the skin on the back of the hand, for example)
- increased blood level of glycosylated hemoglobin…
Improve your diet
Food can provide products derived from glycation, or which can promote it. First of all, they must be limited.
Even if your sensitive gut doesn’t allow you to eat a lot of raw foods, it’s still possible toavoid overcooked foods (grilled) and containing Maillard products: food browned or scorched, au gratin, caramelized. The cooking mode can multiply up to 10 times the amount of glycation products compared to the same boiled product, for example. The golden skin of grilled poultry or fish, or worse: fried or breaded, is particularly rich in Maillard products (2). Ditto the crust of bread, rusks, biscuits, donuts, fried foods, etc.
All foods to high glycemic index, which give large increases in glycemia (blood sugar), will obviously promote glycation. These are sucrose, pastries with added sugar, overly refined cereals and flours, pastries, jams, potatoes, etc.
Among the champions of glycotoxin content: grilled meats (let’s not forget that these are animal muscles therefore loaded with glycogen which is a sugar) and industrial products to which we add milk proteins or powders (cookie dough, pizzas, fast food, industrial cheeses, etc.).
Cook in an acidic and humid environment reduces the formation of glycotoxins (cooking with tomato, vinegar or lemon, and a little water at the bottom of the pan) as well as baking soda or baker’s yeast replacing chemical yeast in bread dough or pancakes (8) for example.
Some substances have proven their glycation-limiting effect:
Carnosine : especially concentrated in the muscle and the brain, this molecule made by our body from amino acids (alanine, histidine) becomes scarce as we age. It can react with sugars in a glycation reaction, thus preserving other proteins. Carnosine, once glycated, is not toxic to the body and can be eliminated. Studies have shown its protective effect on fibroblasts (cells that make collagen and elastin), its healing action and its antioxidant properties (1). It is found mainly in animal flesh (red meat, poultry and seafood) which should therefore be eaten raw or cooked to less than 110°.
Animal studies have been able to show increases in lifespan of around 20% with carnosine. Finally, it is also a chelator of toxic heavy metals; it helps their elimination.
The beta-alanine is an amino acid with which our body will make carnosine. Some studies show more marked elevations in muscle carnosine levels with beta-alanine, which may be more assimilable.
Aminoguanidine : it would have, according to certain studies, a protective effect of the retina, the neurons and the kidney at the diabetic. Like carnosine, it can substitute for our proteins in the glycation reaction. Other studies have shown an improvement in blood circulation in arteriosclerotic patients with aminoguanidine and a reduction in circulating levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). However, it could be poorly tolerated by the liver in some (3).
Metformin : it is, basically, an anti-diabetic but it has also been found to have preventive virtues on diseases linked to aging and glycation: anti-cancer, cardio-protective and neuro-protective.
Vitamin B1 and one of its derivatives benfotiamine have demonstrated their preventive action on protein glycation in diabetics (6).
Vitamin A especially on the skin.
Anti-glycation plants and foods
Here again various plants or extracts (many of which are also rich in flavonoid antioxidants) where anti-glycation action has been demonstrated in studies:
– excerpts from blueberry (8), grape extract (OPC) and flavonoid-rich foods in general,
– sheets of guava and of Walnut,
– alliaceae (garlic, onions, leeks…)(9),
– extract of green tea (10), resveratrol grapes (11),
– alphalipoic acid, carnitine, quercetin, trehalose,
– spices : rosemary (widely used in the Mediterranean diet), turmericcinnamon, thyme, cloves…
– the entire Brassicaceae family (cabbage)…
Note that many of these substances studied today were well known by traditional medicine (in particular Ayurvedic), and already proposed in the fight against aging for several thousand years.
In anti-aging medicine, let us remember that products derived from glycation accumulate over time in the body and that this harmful reaction should therefore be limited. In the first place, it is a question of not favoring it by poor food hygiene, in particular, reduce fast sugars (those that rapidly raise blood sugar) and limit cooking and its temperature at best. This will limit our levels of glycotoxins which are more and more difficult to eliminate with age.
It is obvious that raw foods are interesting here, especially since they keep their vitamins intact.
Finally, depending on the age and state of health of each, it is also possible to supplement with natural products such as those mentioned above, having an action against glycation.
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