What is this new buzzword “glycation”? When sugars bind with protein molecules, aging apparently accelerates.
Doctors are starting to offer the hemoglobin A1c blood test to more patients because tissue glycation is suspected of accelerating aging. This simple blood test was typically reserved for diabetics. However, research is pointing to its usefulness for all ageing individuals. The test results are good indicators of poor blood sugar control, disease risk, and longevity.
Glycation is the binding together of sugar and protein molecules. A visible result of glycation is wrinkles. Sugars in the bloodstream bind to collagen and elastin, damaging the skin.
In diabetics, the hemoglobin A1c blood test is used to measure long-term glucose control. The test measures average blood sugar levels over the past three or four months. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels increase the rate of glycation in the body.
Glycation results in advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These molecules damage the body. Recent research shows that AGEs likely play a role in cancer,1 neurodegeneration,2 heart disease,3 and the ageing process. This is one of many reasons for tightly controlling blood sugar in diabetics.
Glycation in Non-Diabetics
For non-diabetics, glycation occurs more slowly. Getting the hemoglobin A1c blood test on a regular basis could head off problems. The doctor can work with the patient to take corrective measures, such as lifestyle changes.
Ideal Hemoglobin A1c Levels
Hemoglobin A1c levels should be below 7%, according to the American Diabetes Association. Ideally, the number should be below 5%. For example, reducing refined carbohydrate intake, reducing weight if overweight, and increasing exercise can lower glycation levels. AGEs are unavoidable in cooked foods; poaching, boiling and stewing have less AGEs than frying and grilling.
Diabetes is essentially accelerated ageing. Diabetic retinopathy is a real threat. This eye disease affects half of diabetics, and 6% lose their vision. Regular eye exams are crucial for diabetics, as this disease can creep up on them. Symptoms such as blurriness, distorted vision, more eye floaters, and eye pain can go unnoticed until significant damage has accumulated. Glycation also causes diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) and diabetic nephropathy (leading to kidney failure).
Editor’s Note: A healthy lifestyle reduces glycation. The damaging effects of AGEs can cut life short and increase disease and suffering. Maintain a good weight, eat a healthy diet such as the Vision Diet, and exercise daily. Oclumed eye drops contain glutathione, which helps prevent protein molecules and sugars from binding within the eye. Glycation in the eye may be associated with cataracts.4
- Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 Dec;24(12):1855-63. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0422. Epub 2015 Sep 24. The Association between Glyceraldehyde-Derived Advanced Glycation End-Products and Colorectal Cancer Risk. Kong SY et. al. ↩
- Whitmer RA. Type 2 diabetes and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2007 Sep;7(5):373-80. ↩
- Vasdev S, Gill V, Singal P. Role of advanced glycation end products in hypertension and atherosclerosis: therapeutic implications. Cell Biochem Biophys. 2007;49(1):48-63. ↩
- J Am Optom Assoc. 1998 Aug;69(8):519-30. “The contribution of glycation to cataract formation in diabetes.” Stevens A ↩