Glycation, also known as the Maillard reaction, is the binding of sugars to proteins (1). It both occurs spontaneously in the body as well as when we cook certain foods.
This chemical reaction leads to the development of glycated proteins, which accumulate inside cells and cannot be eliminated.
In a matter of days, glycated proteins are converted into compounds called Amadori products (2). After a few weeks, these end up forming Maillard products, or AGEs (Advanced Glycation End Products). Once underway, this last conversion is irreversible (3).
Maillard products are known to promote the development of various problems :
In short, the various stages of glycation together cause an acceleration in ageing (6-7). This process is stimulated by an overload of sugar in the body, and thus has an even more dramatic effect on diabetics (who have elevated levels of glycated haemoglobin) (8-9).
If you want to fight this ‘caramelisation’ of your body and slow down the effects of ageing, you need to start by looking at your diet...
Modern diets are often high in sugar and contain too much food cooked at high temperatures, both of which encourage protein glycation (10).
To prevent excessive glycation in your body:
To combat glycation, it’s also important to take regular exercise and to make sure you manage day to day stress effectively (12).
In recent years, a number of studies have highlighted certain substances with the potential to help inhibit the formation of AGEs (13-14).
Further scientific research is needed in order to clarify all the mechanisms involved.
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