According to researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, reducing the intake of processed and fried foods could possibly decrease inflammation and actually assist in restoring the body’s natural defenses in spite of age or health status. Processed and fried foods are known to be high in toxins called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). Apparently, these benefits are present even without altering caloric or nutrient consumption.
The research seems to provide a simple dietary intervention that may lead to weight loss and have considerable impact on several epidemic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.
AGEs are believed to be harmful substances that are plentiful in Western diets. Moreover, they seem to multiply when foods are heated, pasteurized, dried, smoked, fried or grilled. Once absorbed in the body, AGEs are known to hold fast to tissues and oxidize them thereby causing inflammation which in turn can lead to disease.
“What is noteworthy about our findings is that reduced AGE consumption proved to be effective in all study participants, including healthy persons and persons who have a chronic condition such as kidney disease,” says lead researcher, Helen Vlassara, MD, Professor and Director of the Division of Experimental Diabetes and Aging at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
“This suggests that oxidants may play a more active role than genetics in overwhelming our body’s defenses, which we need to fight off disease. It has been said that nature holds the power, but the environment pulls the trigger. The good news is that unlike genetics, we can control oxidant levels, which may not be an accompaniment to disease and aging, but instead due to the cumulative toxic influence of AGEs,” elucidates Dr. Vlassara.
Several animal studies performed by Dr. Vlassara along with her team have shown that oxidative stress from high oxidant levels and inflammation related to long-term exposure to AGEs may possibly raise the risk of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and other chronic conditions.
For the purpose of better understanding this criterion, researchers were believed to have examined a subset of approximately 40 healthy participants who were either between the ages of 18 and 45 or older than 60. Also, another nine patients with kidney disease were randomly assigned to one of two diets.
One group was observed to have followed their own regular Western diet that was rich in AGEs. The second group followed a diet of similar caloric and nutrient content, but with only one-half the amount of AGEs, known as the ‘AGE-less diet.’ Furthermore, participants in the AGE-less intervention appear to have been advised to avoid grilling, frying or baking their food and instead were instructed to poach, stew, or steam their meals. It was seen that there was no change in calories or nutrient intake during this period.
The research findings revealed that after four months on the AGE-less diet, blood AGE levels, lipid peroxides, inflammatory markers, and biomarkers of vascular function seem to have declined by as much as 60 percent in healthy participants. A reduction of similar magnitude was observed to have been found in kidney patients after only one month on the AGE-less diet.
Researchers also found an encouraging effect on a cellular receptor for AGEs called AGER1, which is significant for the clearance of toxic AGEs from the body. The number of copies of the AGER1 gene was noted to have been measured in circulating blood cells.
The findings are known to be a result of a clinical research involving over 350 people which was conducted in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Supposedly, this research builds on earlier research conducted in animal models that established the effective prevention of these diseases and also the extension of lifespan by consuming a reduced AGE diet.
In view of the fact that this number was strictly suppressed in participants with kidney disease, all of whom had very high levels of AGEs, the researchers speculate that important defense mechanisms may have become ‘exhausted’ as a result of chronically elevated AGEs. However, after a short period on the AGE-reduced diet, the number of AGER1 gene copies appears to have re-established to normal levels among patients with kidney disease.
Researchers were of the opinion that daily AGE consumption in the standard Western diet seems to be at least three times higher than the safety limit for these oxidants. This could perhaps, partly, elucidate the changes seen in disease demographics.
Dr. Vlassara cautioned saying that although the AGEs pose a more instant health threat to older adults, they appear to be in similar danger for younger people, including pregnant women and children, and this needs to be addressed. Ages are known to be everywhere and addictive, since they provide flavor to foods.
However, they can be controlled through simple methods of cooking, such as keeping the heat down and the water content up in food and by avoiding pre-packaged and fast foods when possible. Doing so could perhaps reduce AGE levels in the blood and help the body restore its own defenses.
The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.