I recently saw a headline that said sugar was “the biggest dietary enemy we face.”
But the truth is…humans evolved to eat sweet foods. It’s how our ancestors knew a food growing in the wild was safe to eat and good for us.
In fact, there are no naturally sweet foods that are harmful to your health… Nature wouldn’t let you evolve to like something bad for you. Foods with natural fat, salt, and sugar are some of the healthiest foods you can eat.
So if sugar isn’t the problem, what is?
I’m sure you know the real health crisis comes from starchy carbohydrates in grains.
Humans were never meant to eat grains. When you think about it, grains are bland and tasteless. So food manufacturers add back refined sugar, as well as unhealthy fats and refined salts, and persuade you to eat them.
I’m not blaming you. You’ve been bombarded with misleading and unsupported claims for decades.
You are told, for example, that granola bars are a healthy snack. But you’d be just as well off eating a Snickers candy bar.
Of course, I’m not telling you this, so you replace “health foods” with junk food. I’m saying most health foods ARE junk food.
Then there’s the other big problem of hidden refined sugar.
Over the past 30 years, this poison has infiltrated almost everything we eat and drink. And inside your body, all these sugars and processed carbs have transformed a natural biological process into mutant killer molecules called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).
An easy way to see how this silent killer works is to think about the process involved in making caramel.
First, you take sugar and put it in a pan. Then you heat it. Soon, all those grains of sugar melt to form the sticky candy we call caramel.
This chemical process is similar to what happens in your body when excess refined sugars — especially sucrose, fructose, and galactose — encounter proteins:
- Healthy cells become inflamed – and inflammation is the root of all chronic diseases
- Arteries become stiff and rigid
- And the function of hormones, enzymes, and even DNA is altered
Although your body has enzymes in place to deal with sugar intake and prevent AGEs from doing damage, it’s not enough to cope with our refined sugar epidemic.
But it’s the point at which sugar exceeds the capacity of these enzymes — a typical condition since refined sugar and processed foods have infiltrated almost everything we eat today — that advanced glycation end products are formed, and your insides become “caramelized.”
And the higher the number of AGEs in your blood, the greater your level of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory molecule and marker of heart disease.
One study examined a group of 559 older women and found those with the highest blood levels of AGEs were almost twice as likely to die from heart disease than those with the lowest levels.1
But your heart isn’t the only organ under attack. Because AGEs target your body’s proteins, that means the tissue of your cells and organs are also attacked, as well as your hormones and the enzymes needed to keep all your body systems running.
When these proteins can’t do their jobs, they damage tissue, disrupt cellular metabolism, and disturb your hormonal balance.
Other key areas of AGEs damage include your brain, vision, kidneys, joints, and immune system.
Protect Yourself From AGEing
While glycation can’t be stopped completely, it can be slowed enough to prevent the build-up of AGEs. The first step is to return to your native diet. Then, to protect yourself, I recommend:
- Add Carnosine To Your Diet. Studies show that carnosine prevents proteins and sugars from binding and stops the formation of AGEs.2,3 Grass-fed, pasture-raised beef is the best way to get carnosine from food. But don’t overcook. It destroys protein, breaks down vitamins, and removes nutrients, including carnosine. I recommend eating your beef rare. You can also supplement. You want the natural L-carnosine form, not the synthetic ones often labeled “nature-identical.” Take 500 mg twice daily to keep a steady supply.
- Increase Your Intake Of These Plant Compounds. Studies show that antioxidants like quercetin and vitamin C slow down the development of AGEs. Plant phenols can also protect against the formation of AGEs. Some that I recommend include curcumin, resveratrol, lemon balm, and Ceylon cinnamon. One of the most effective is green tea extract. It’s been shown to suppress the extent of glycation and the formation of AGEs.4 I recommend you take a supplement containing at least 50 mg of EGCG, the most potent antioxidant in green tea.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Semba R, et al. “Advanced glycation end products and their circulating receptors predict cardiovascular disease mortality in older community-dwelling women.” Aging Clin Exp Res. 2009 Apr;21(2):182-90.
2. Stegen S, et al. “Plasma carnosine, but not muscle carnosine, attenuates high-fat diet-induced metabolic stress.” Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015 Sep;40(9):868-76.
3. Pietkiewicz J, et al. “Glycation of the muscle-specific enolase by reactive carbonyls: effect of temperature and the protection role of carnosine, pyridoxamine, and phosphatidylserine.” Protein J. 2011 Mar;30(3):149-58.
4. Del Castillo M, et al. “Healthy eating recommendations: Good for reducing dietary contribution to the body’s advanced glycation/lipoxidation end products pool?” Nutr Res Rev. 2021;34(1):48-63.