How Sugar AGEs You

Although the complications of diabetesare well known, scientists don’t fullyunderstand the mechanisms that underliethem. However, a key to the mystery lies inwhat are known as advanced glycosylationend-products (AGEs).

In 1985, Anthony Cerami, PhD, identified amolecular structure he found in abundancein the blood of people with diabetes.He posited that these structures wereresponsible for the long-term complicationsof diabetes and named them advancedglycosylation end-products.

Since his pioneering work, other diabetesresearchers have turned their focus on thebiochemical effects of chronically elevatedblood glucose, and it is now widely believedthat AGEs are a major cause of the havocwreaked by diabetes.

What the Research Shows

AGEs have been implicated in virtuallyevery disease process associated both withaging and complications of diabetes. A 1991study in the New England Journal of Medicinefound that among diabetics with kidneydisease, increasing concentrations of AGEsparallel the severity of their kidney functionimpairment.

Although not yet tested in humans, itappears that anti-AGE drugs may be usefulin treating these various disease processes.In studies of animals with diabetes, acompound that chemically breaks apartAGE cross-links was able to slow or reversedisease processes in the heart, kidney andvascular system. The results of the studywere published in a 2004 issue of theAmerican Journal of Hypertension.

Steps to Keeping AGEs in Check

AGEs are one more important piece of thecomplex puzzle that is diabetes. They arealso another clear and compelling reason todo everything you can to prevent diabetes,and if you have it, to keep your bloodglucose levels under tight control. Regularmonitoring of blood glucose, controllingyour carbs and getting regular exercise canall play a role in better glycemic control.

What Are AGEs?

Over time, glucose molecules and protein moleculesin the bloodstream attach, “gumming up” the proteinmolecules, resulting in something called cross-linking.When proteins become cross-linked, they stiffen andlose elasticity, causing—in the blood vessels, vitalorgans and skin—what we know as “aging.”

AGEs, the results of this cross-linking, are believedto damage tiny blood vessels in the eyes, kidneysand elsewhere and contribute to the narrowingand hardening of blood vessels that carry blood toand from the heart. The greatest concentrations ofAGEs are found in older people and diabetics. WhileAGEs naturally accumulate over time, the processis accelerated in people with diabetes, who havechronically high levels of glucose.

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