‘AGE-forming’ foods make your brain old

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are real fears that all of us face…

The idea of one day losing your mind, the ability to recognize loved ones, perform daily functions or take care of yourself — that’s just not a thought any of us want to entertain.

Although cognitive decline is a complex process, scientists have determined that one of the key contributing factors is Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). AGEs lead to increased oxidative damage, cellular degeneration and chronic inflammation in our cells which drives aging and age-related diseases.

AGEs are formed through a process where sugar reacts with protein and fat. That means on one hand, diet can contribute to more rapid cognitive decline — the more dietary AGEs we consume, the more rapid the decline may be. Fortunately, on the other hand, you can reduce dietary AGEs and stop AGE formation by making better dietary choices…

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How AGEs affect the brain

The brain’s primary source of fuel is glucose. Since many people consume way too much carbohydrate in their diet, the body has an oversupply of glucose, which can result in high blood sugar levels. This drives the formation of AGEs, which accumulate in different regions of the brain — the regions that influence learning and memory.

Inside the brains of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, it’s been shown that these AGEs localize with certain cells, further driving the progression of plaque formation and cognitive decline. Overall, these AGEs promote cellular dysfunction through multiple mechanisms.

Berries protect against AGEs

The good news is, that consuming berries has been shown to stop AGE formation. Berries contain a range of beneficial nutrients and compounds — phenolic acids, such as ferulic acid, resveratrol, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ellagic acid, along with procyanidins, catechins, and vitamin C.

All of these nutrients and compounds make berries our antioxidant and anti-inflammatory superhero. Reason is, that the body goes through an oxidation-reduction stage to produce AGEs, and the potent compounds in berries stop this process before it takes place.

Aim to consume one-quarter to half a cup of berries per day, including:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Cherries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Bilberries
  • Loganberries
  • Juniper berries
  • Crowberries
  • Black bearberries
  • Noble muscadine grapes

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Diet tips to minimize AGEs

Besides consuming berries you can also minimize high AGE foods.

Avoid fried or microwaved bacon, broiled beef, pan-fried steak, canola oil, whipped butter, chicken nuggets, pizza crust, American cheese, fried eggs, roasted almonds and other roasted nuts, potato chips, French fries, and margarine.

Now, some of the foods I just listed, like eggs and nuts, are healthy in their own right. The thing about AGEs is that the catalyst is often the way a food is cooked…

Dry heat causes more AGE formulation, so minimizing cooking methods such as frying, roasting, broiling and grilling is recommended. Instead, use steaming, stewing, slow cooking and boiling — methods that require moisture and liquid during the cooking process. For instance, broiled beef or pan-fried steak are high in AGEs, whereas slow-cooked beef or stewed steak is not.

You also want to minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates, as high blood glucose levels lead to AGE formation. Instead, focus on eating lots of low glycemic index vegetables as these will not only regulate blood sugar levels but also add additional antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components to your diet that will further decrease AGE formation.

For more tips on avoiding premature aging and age-related disease, follow these 4 anti-aging nutrition tips to beat the forces of time.

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  1. Thangthaeng N, et al. Preserving Brain Function in Aging: The Antiglycating Potential of Berry Fruit. Neuromolecular Med. 2016;18(3):465-73.
  2. Uribarri J, et al. Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. — J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):911-16 e12.
  3. Goldberg T, et al. Advanced glycoxidation end products in commonly consumed foods. — J Am Diet Assoc. 2004;104(8):1287-91.
Jedha Dening

By Jedha Dening

Jedha Dening is a qualified nutritionist (MNutr), researcher, author, freelance writer, and founder of type 2 diabetic nutrition site Diabetes Meal Plans. Her masters thesis on nutrition and inflammation was published and then presented at a national scientific conference. She has millions of words published in the health industry across various print and online publications. Having been in the field for over 15 years, she’s incredibly passionate about delving into the latest research to share the myths and truths surrounding nutrition and health. She believes when armed with the right knowledge, we’re empowered to make informed choices that can truly make a difference.