While Most People Know Eating Processed Foods Can Accelerate Aging, Few Understand The Risks Of Cooking At High Temps
When it comes to health, many people are aware of the major dos and don'ts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet. However, they tend to only focus on their cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI), and overlook another key medical marker: advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). If ignored, AGEs can also lead to significant damage to an individual’s health over time.
AGEs are harmful compounds that develop in the body or are ingested through certain foods, including browned, sugary, and processed foods. When too many of these foods are consumed, higher than normal levels of AGEs develop and build up in the tissues. This accumulation can damage the organs and body systems and accelerate the aging process from the inside out.
In an effort to educate the public about AGEs, the A.G.E. Foundation, a global not-for-profit organization, recently unveiled the findings of its US survey on eating habits and the impact of cooking methods on aging. This survey coincides with the launch of global A.G.E. Awareness Day. Both initiatives are dedicated to educating consumers about AGEs and how they can protect themselves and prolong a healthy life. The goal is also aimed at having AGE levels globally recognized as a viable health marker, similar to cholesterol, blood pressure, and BMI.
"We launched A.G.E. Awareness Day on summer solstice, the longest day of the year, as a way to connect the conversation to longevity in life." said Shon Whitney, chief executive officer of the A.G.E. Foundation. "We know that people are looking for ways to live healthy, vibrant lives and the AGE conversation is an important topic that is being overlooked in today's health and wellness conversations."
The Impact of Eating Habits and Cooking Methods on Aging
According to the survey, 76 percent of Americans know that eating processed food can accelerate aging. Thirty-two percent cited the manner in which the food was cooked as having an impact on aging, while just 11 percent indicated cooking food at high temperatures affected aging.
With the start of the summer season, people will be heating up the grill with limited awareness of the way to reduce AGEs. The survey showed that six in 10 people prefer grilling their meat over oven-roasting (23 percent), stir-frying (nine percent), steaming (three percent) and poaching (one percent).
"It is important for people to limit the amount of barbecued, sautéed, or even toasted foods," said Michelle Davenport, PhD, board member, A.G.E. Foundation. "We've found that when we cook at higher temperatures, more AGEs form in the food—so our recommendation is to cook your meat at a low temperature for a longer period of time."
The survey also showed that when people are eating processed, fried, or sugary foods, 81 percent are more concerned with the impact on their weight, while 58 percent are more concerned about the effect on their internal organs. More women than men worry about these issues, especially the effect these foods can have on their skin (42 percent versus 30 percent).
According to the A.G.E. Foundation, the key to lowering AGEs is to reduce heat, extend cooking time, and incorporate more water and acid into your food preparation. Water-based cooking methods (i.e., steaming and poaching) dramatically reduce AGEs. When asked about healthy ways to prepare meats for grilling, 34 percent of those surveyed ranked herb and oil as the healthiest, followed by "straight to the grill" at 21 percent. Only 17 percent of respondents cited an acid-based marinade as the healthiest way to prepare meats. "Adding a marinade in the form of lemon, lime, or vinegar can cut AGEs by 50 percent," said Dr. Davenport.
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which are low in AGEs, are also recommended. Fruits and vegetables like noni, blueberries, olives, and cornelian cherries are particularly beneficial, and contain natural elements called iridoids, which can lower a person's AGE levels.
Know Your Numbers
Just like cholesterol, BMI, and blood pressure, AGE levels are also a key medical marker. Knowing AGE levels is important because it impacts how long and how well you live. In addition to eating a healthy, fresh diet and preparing low-AGE level foods, it's important to quit smoking, exercise regularly, get the recommended amounts of sleep, and control stress levels to achieve an AGE-less lifestyle.