Do you know how AGEs affect your skin? No, I’m not talking about how your skincare needs can vary from decade to decade. I’m talking about advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short. It’s rare that an acronym so perfectly describes a scientific term. AGEs really do make your skin look older! So it’s important to understand what they are and how to avoid them if you want your skin to look its best, no matter how old you are.
What may surprise you is the role your food plays in how your skin looks. As you’re about to see, the reason has a lot to do with how you cook your food.
AGEs are the result of proteins or lipids becoming glycated. Glycation is just the scientific word to describe a sugar molecule bonding to a protein or lipid molecule. These AGEs can go on to damage the skin. In fact, measuring AGEs is becoming a key area of focus for researchers studying skin health in general.
In the last decade, researchers have discovered new ways to measure AGEs in the skin. This has opened the floodgates of research. Some of the findings weren’t surprising. AGEs do increase as we age. And they’re significantly higher in diabetic patients. That’s because they have excess sugar in their blood available to create them.
One of the major effects of AGES on the skin is that they break down collagen. They create lots of inflammation and oxidative stress in the skin as well. So it’s not surprising that research has also linked them to wrinkles and loss of elasticity. Interestingly, men seem to have a higher rate of AGE accumulation over time than women. This could be linked to some of the dietary drivers of AGEs.
How You Cook Your Meat Makes a Big Difference
Given that AGEs involve sugar molecules, you would probably expect consuming sugar to be the biggest driver of AGE accumulation. And it certainly does contribute. As we’ve discussed before, sugar is bad news for your skin. Its role in producing AGEs is a big part of this. But believe it or not, sugar isn’t the biggest source of AGEs in most people’s diets. That dubious designation actually goes to meat.
In general, protein-rich products are high in AGEs. But that number can skyrocket depending on how the food is prepared. In fact, cooking meat using dry heat can create up to 100 times more AGEs than are present in raw meat. Grilling, broiling, roasting, searing, and frying can all have these effects.
For example, researchers found that raw beef has 720 kU of AGEs in every serving. But pan-frying beef in olive oil increases that figure to a whopping 9,052 kU of AGEs.
Obviously, the solution isn’t to stop cooking your meat. And you don’t even have to cut meat out altogether to reduce the AGEs in your diet. Cutting back can certainly be a healthy choice. And fish, eggs, and tofu will give you fewer AGEs for your protein buck than red meat and poultry. But there are certain preparation methods that can go a long way as well.
In particular, marinating meat in something acidic before you cook it can help. The acid will inhibit the production of AGEs when you cook the meat. Look for recipes that include lemon juice or vinegar in the marinade. Then, choose a long, low-heat cooking method that keeps the meat in a moisture-rich environment. Options include poaching, steaming, and stewing. Poached salmon, for example, gives you 2,292 kU of AGEs – a much better figure than pan-fried beef. And a poached egg clocks in at just 90 kU.
This really will make a difference in AGE generation. For example, researchers found that poaching or steaming chicken produced only a fourth of the AGEs that roasting or broiling created. And these methods really aren’t any more difficult.
How to Combat AGEs
Of course, consuming some AGEs is inevitable. So you’ll need to have a way to combat them. Because AGEs produce inflammation and oxidative stress, all the classic healthy habits come into play. Yes, you need to exercise if you want to decrease the effects of AGEs on your body.
We know that exercise helps decrease inflammation and oxidative stress. But researchers wanted to know if it could specifically help with AGEs. They recruited 98 participants to complete an eight-month exercise program. The researchers had them complete a bicycle stress test at the beginning and end of the study. They measured their serum receptors for AGEs (sRAGEs) over the course of the program.
Sure enough, exercise increased sRAGEs in the participants. This in turn decreased inflammation. The participants who hadn’t been physically active before the study began actually fared the best. In fact, those who improved their performance by more than 5% experienced up to a 22% increase in sRAGEs. So if you need one more reason to get to the gym, maybe protecting your collagen will be what convinces you!
Nutrients That Can Help Fight AGEs
We also need to talk a bit more about diet. As you know, when it comes to fighting inflammation, antioxidants will help as well. Researchers have begun identifying which antioxidants are the most effective against AGEs. Some, like resveratrol, are obvious picks.
We talk about resveratrol often because it has such strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. (And because people like to use it as an excuse to drink red wine!) Now, alcohol isn’t great for your skin. So to get the most benefit for your skin, you’ll want to get resveratrol from a supplement.
Red grapes and blueberries are other good sources of resveratrol. But they aren’t the only fruits that fight AGEs. In fact, one fruit in particular is uniquely suited to stopping the AGE process. It actually has anti-glycation properties.
As you can imagine, sugar does contribute to AGEs. So this fruit isn’t very sweet. In fact, its name warns you of that. But it’s certainly worth enduring the sour taste to get the anti-AGE benefits.
This powerful fruit is the tart cherry. Most of the cherries you’ll find in the produce department are sweet. And they’re good for you too. But the tart cherry varieties like Morello (dark red), Amarelle (light red), and Montmorency (the most popular) are the real superstars in this arena. Here’s why.
You may have heard of anthocyanins before. These are a category of flavonoid. There are six primary anthocyanins. You’ll find various ones in different red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables. And they all have different anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-cancer effects. So whether you’re concerned about collagen breakdown, acne breakouts, or even skin cancer, anthocyanins are beneficial.
Most red or blue fruits boast a few anthocyanins. But tart cherries have all six. So they’re an excellent source of protection. They can even help reduce muscle soreness, so they’re a good complement to a new exercise regimen too.
Because tart cherries live up to their name, you won’t typically find them in the produce section. But you can find tart cherry juice or dried tart cherries in most grocery stores. They’re a great weapon for your anti-AGE arsenal. Just make sure you don’t get a product with added sugar to cover the tart taste. That will be counterproductive. If you do find the whole fruit, make sure you wait until it’s ripe. Research has found that fully ripened fruits have the highest antioxidant content and the best anti-glycation effects.
While you’re not likely to find whole tart cherries at the grocery store, don’t skip the produce section altogether! You’ll want to be sure to pick up some onions while you’re there. Onions supply an antioxidant called quercetin. It also reduces inflammation and can help your muscles stay strong. You’ll find the most quercetin in onion skin, so don’t peel off too many layers when you’re preparing onion. You can also save the skins to use in homemade stocks.
Your Morning Cup of Joe Can Help
Finally, while we’re on the topic of foods that aren’t great for your breath, coffee can also help protect your skin from AGEs. Coffee contains a polyphenol called chlorogenic acid (CGA). CGA is similar to resveratrol and anthocyanins. They’re all great at fighting microbes, inflammation, and even cancer. They’re great for helping you achieve healthy skin. CGA also helps the body metabolize glucose and lipids. So it helps decrease the circulating glucose that can form AGEs.
I know this may feel like a lot to keep track of. The good news is you don’t have to. You already know that you need to keep sugar in your diet to a minimum. And you know you need to exercise. You may want to change the way you prepare meat if you live for grilling season or at least marinate in vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice. But other than that, you can fight AGEing with just one more simple step.
You can find all of the antioxidants I’ve told you about in Advanced Anti-AGEs Formula. It contains Montmorency cherries, onion skin extract, red grape skin extract, and CGA. It also contains vitamin C, another skin superstar. Together, these antioxidants will help you avoid AGEs in the first place and reverse any damage caused when you just can’t pass up the holiday barbeque or roast.