Limiting AGEs During the Holidays

By Dr.Limiting AGEs during the holidays can be challenging Natalie Ledbetter CRNA, DAcOM

Even during the holiday season we can limit our AGEs. If you read my blog post on AGE’s last month you know that they are harmful chemical compounds that are produced in the body and ingested in the food we eat. AGEs are strongly connected to all kinds of age-related degenerative disorders. Higher levels of AGE ingestion and production are associated with chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more. This compound is also associated with a general decline in overall health and appearance.

These compounds can be caused by glycation in which a protein or a fat molecule binds to a simple sugar. Another method is oxidation where glucose or fat reacts with oxygen destroying the normal structure of the fat. Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) are less stable than other fats making them more likely to be oxidized than other fats.

Avoiding AGEs and decreasing the internal production of them is one way to prevent premature aging, degenerative diseases, and oxidative stress.

Fat and protein can contain AGEs

When fats or protein are cooked with high and dry heat such as frying, grilling, baking, and broiling these increase AGE levels in the food. That crispy skin on the roasted chicken may taste good, but it is not great for you. Crispy bacon, brown toast, grilled burgers… They all contain higher levels of AGEs from the cooking methods. Foods that are naturally higher in AGEs before cooking include meat, fat, and dairy.

This does not mean you should avoid these if they are a part of your diet. Though higher AGE levels are found in animal products, studies looking at vegans, vegetarians, and those following a paleo diet found that the vegans and vegetarians had higher AGE levels than the paleo diet followers. The cause of this turns out to be carbohydrates which turn into sugar in the body and Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs).

Sugar, carbohydrates, and Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids are the bad guys in this story

Our body can eliminate some of the AGEs that we eat within a few days so even though we don’t want to go crazy eating crispy bacon every day of the week, we don’t have to obsess about every bite of meat or fat we put in our mouth. What makes the biggest difference to our health is the amount of AGEs produced internally. Sugar and PUFAs are the 2 biggest culprits driving AGE formation in the body.

PUFAs include Omega 3, 6, and 9. Omega 6 oils include all nut and seed oils, peanut oil, and fish oil. A high-quality fish oil or Omega 3 that has not gone rancid is healthy and necessary and most Americans do not get adequate amounts, but we tend to get way too many Omega 6s in our diet since processed food, fast food, and even dishes at restaurants usually contain high levels. PUFAs include soybean oil, corn and canola oil, sunflower, safflower, and walnut oil, and peanut oil. Avoid these oils and products containing or fried in these oils.

Elevated blood sugar levels lead to increased AGE production and fructose consumption is the worst type of sugar when it comes to this process. In order to decrease oxidative and glycation processes it is important to keep blood sugar levels in the lower range of normal and prevent wide swings. To do this, avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates. I recommend wearing a continuous blood glucose monitor for a couple weeks once or twice a year to see how different foods affect your blood sugar.

What can be done to minimize AGEs?

So to sum it up and apply all this to how we want to eat during the holidays, it basically boils down to a few tips.

  • Avoid PUFAs in store bought baked goods such as cakes, cookies, pastries, and crackers. Make your own instead with more stable healthy fats such as butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee.


  • Go easy (or not at all) on food that will raise you blood sugar. This includes all desserts (unless it is a serving of fresh berries with heavy whipping cream), surgery cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes loaded with sugar and marshmallows, dressing, and mashed potatoes. Alcohol falls in this category as well unless it is vodka, rum, tequila, gin, or whisky without any sweet mixers.


  • If you really want to partake in treats that will have your pancreas working overtime, do 30 to 60 deep squats before the meal and then go for a 30 minute walk after. This will help drive sugar into your muscles where it can be used instead of lurking in your bloodstream.


  • Eat protein and healthy fat before you eat carbs to help stabilize blood sugar.


  • Cook more often with lower heat or more moisture such as poaching and boiling, or using a slow cooker or insta-pot, and marinate your meats in acid (vinegar or lemon juice) for at least 30 minutes before cooking to decrease AGE formation.


AGEs can really speed up the aging process, but there are actions we can take to decrease their production. This holiday season be mindful of the food you eat and the way it is cooked. Minimize sugar and simple carbohydrates and your intake of PUFAs and you are well on your way to healthier living.


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