Vegan Health ArticlesAGEd Meat: The Problems of Glycotoxins
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From Michael Greger, MD


The acronym of Advanced Glycoxidation End-products (AGE's, also known as glycotoxins) is an appropriate one. These AGE's accumulate in joints and cause arthritis;[1] they accumulate in the brain contributing to Alzheimer's disease,[2] and they accumulate in arteries causing high blood pressure[3] and atherosclerosis.[4] They build up in the eye and cause cataracts,[5] build up in the kidneys, contributing to kidney failure,[6] and build up in the penis causing male erectile dysfunction.[7] In fact there's a whole theory (the Maillard Theory) that blames nearly all the complications of aging on the buildup of these toxic compounds.[8]

Where does this AGE stuff come from? Like free radicals, our body naturally produces these toxic AGE's every day. But, also like free radicals, there are a number of external sources we have control over so as to minimize our exposure. Cigarette smoke, for example, is a potent source of these glycotoxins,[9] but we also get them through our diet.

Researchers at Mount Sinai recently measured the amount of AGE's in over a hundred common food items. They found that the five foods most tainted with Advanced Glycoxidation End-products (per serving) were broiled hot dogs, oven-fried chicken, oven-fried fish, McDonald's Chicken Nuggets, and broiled chicken breast. It turns out AGE's are found predominantly in meat.

In fact, investigators with the famous Women's Health Study reported this September that the AGE's in meat may be why women who eat meat five or more times a week are at significantly higher risk for developing diabetes.[10]

Dry heat, protein and fat seem to conspire to produce these lycotoxins. So while a broiled hot dog has over 10,000 units of AGE's per serving, a boiled hot dog has just under 7,000 (an apple or banana, in comparison, only has about 10 units).

"Foods that contain mostly carbohydrates," the researchers note, "starches, fruits, vegetables.... contain the lowest AGE concentrations." At high enough temperatures, though, high fat and protein plant foods like broiled tofu and roasted nuts can also form significant AGE concentrations as well.

The Mount Sinai researchers offer three suggestions for decreasing one's intake of AGEs:

"Firstly, reduced intakes of AGEs can be achieved by reducing high-AGE sources such as full-fat cheeses, meats and highly processed foods..."

Secondly, they recommended using cooking techniques that minimize AGE formation. In general, boiling, steaming, and microwaving were the cooking methods resulting in the least amount of AGEs, whereas frying, roasting and broiling were the worst.

"Third," the investigators conclude, "the importance of selecting unprocessed nutrients when possible cannot be overemphasized."

They noted, for example, that the AGE content in infant formula was found to be a 100-fold higher than in human breast milk, and expressed concern that this could lead to immune abnormalities in the developing infant.[11]

The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to find way to somehow counteract AGE's within the body,[12] but perhaps a smarter strategy is for people to just not consume so many of them in the first place.

This means centering one's diet around whole plant foods which have ideally not been exposed to temperatures above about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.


1 Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 15(2003):616.
2 Journal of Neural Transmission 105(1998)439.
3 Journal of Hypertension 20(2002):1483.
4 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 811(1997):115.
5 British Journal of Ophthalmology 85(2001):746.
6 Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 11(2000):1744.
7 Urology 50(1997):1016.
8 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 959(2002):360.
9 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94(1997):13915.
10 Diabetes Care 27(2994):2108.
11 Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104(2004):1287.
12 Current Pharmacological Design 10(2004):3361.

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.