What is Glycation?
Glycation is produced during the manufacturing of food products, specifically when sugars and protein-foods are heated to extremely high temperatures during cooking or filling. During glycation, sugars bind to protein molecules. This produces a glycated protein and glycation end products, both of which have been implicated in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, peripheral neuropathy and Alzheimer’s disease.
In Alzheimer’s disease, one of the products of a glycation reaction is the amyloid protein. Glycation end products introduced to the cerebrospinal fluid have been directly implicated in the process of amyloid plaque build up among brain cells.
Glycation also takes place within the body. This occurs especially in diets containing high levels of refined sugars combined with considerable amounts of cooked or caramelized proteins.
To this we can add the sugar-laden Western diet. Today, nearly every processed recipe found in the mass market grocery stores contains refined sugar. Even many processed organic foods contain organic cane syrup – a form of sugar that may not be as refined as white sugar, but is definitely refined, and stripped of the natural plant fibers in cane or beets.
Today, many brands are trying to white-wash the massive refined sugar content of their products by calling their sugar content “all natural.” This is a deception, because nature in the form of fiber has been unnaturally stripped away from their refined sugar. This is hardly a “natural” proposition. Nature attaches sugars to complex fibers and nutrients in such a way that prevents them from easily attaching to proteins. Refined sugars cooked and stripped of their fibers become immediate glycation candidates within the body.
In 2010, researchers from France’s University of Burgundy confirmed that protein or lipid glycation produced by modern food manufacturers is associated with food allergies. Food allergies are increasing among children.
As our digestive system combines these sugars with proteins, many of the glycated proteins are identified as foreign by IgA, or IgE antibodies in immune-burdened or inflammatory intestines. Why are they considered foreign? Because, as we’ve mentioned, glycated proteins and their AGE end products damage blood vessels, tissues, brain cells and also stimulate cancerous cells. So the immune system is simply trying to protect us from our own diet!
There is no surprise that glycation among foods-and the glycation that occurs within the body as a result of the heavy consumption of refined proteins and refined sugars is connected with the increase of allergies among Western societies over the past few decades. This has occurred with the increased consumption of overly-processed foods and manufacturing processes that pulverize and strip foods of their fiber; and blend denatured proteins and sugars using heating processes.
We should note that a healthy type of natural glycation also takes place in the body to produce certain nutrient combinations. Unlike the glycation produced by food manufacturers, this type of glycation is driven by the body’s enzyme processes, resulting in molecules and end products the body uses and recognizes. When glycation is driven by the body’s own enzyme processes, it is technically called glycosylation.
Vicente Miranda H, Outeiro TF. The sour side of neurodegenerative disorders: the effects of protein glycation. J Pathol. 2010 May;221(1):13-25. doi: 10.1002/path.2682.
Rapin JR, Wiernsperger N. Possible links between intestinal permeability and food processing: A potential therapeutic niche for glutamine. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010 Jun;65(6):635-43. doi: 10.1590/S1807-59322010000600012.