Are wrinkles and dementia related?
Sugar coating – you know that sweet, crispy, crunchy coating that we love to bite into on candied anything? A pure delight in the moment, yes? Well, that same sticky-sweet action in the tiniest blood vessels in your body – in your brain, eyes, fingertips, toes – is devastating. You can imagine that gluey, dense, and ultimately brittle stuff adhering to what wants to be open, pliable vessels as they get hardened and clogged. In the simplest of terms, this is glycation, and it has been well understood by physicians and researchers who study diabetes.
Another level of concern has been added to this picture as scientists understand that as the sugar interacts with proteins and lipids in the blood and bodily tissues that they actually create a toxic and corrosive substance known as advanced glycation endproducts or AGE’s, the most recent villain in our ongoing battle for healthy bodies & brains.
Appropriately named, these AGE’s cause aging in every part of the body wherein they make contact. Organs which are particularly vulnerable are the heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain. Diabetics know the debilitating aspects of neuropathy, the constriction and subsequent pressure on those parts of us with the smallest blood vessels at the farthest reaches of the circulatory system – hands and feet, fingers and toes. Blindness and kidney failure are the same results in different body parts. And now, the scary news is that these AGE’s are a likely contributor to Alzheimer’s progression as well, with the gummy, clogging gunk causing the death of neurons and shrinkage of the brain.
There are two ways these sticky offenders harm us. Excessive sugar circulating in the blood causes this “sugar coating,” but now we know that additional glycation damage occurs when we eat foods that are caramelized when cooked at a high heat – double whammy!
So that yummy crispy brown on potatoes, roasted chicken, toast, charred grilled steak or crunchy fried anything is called “caramelization” in cooking and “glycation” in scientific & medical term settings, but it is the same thing!
So what to do?
It would be easy to get discouraged about ALL of the things in our modern world that are bad for our brains – because truly there are so many! But, my friends, knowledge is power and our choices form our habits and our habits shape our health – for good or for ill. Researchers tell us that 40% is our daily actions are habit driven. That means they are largely unconscious. The more we build good choices into our habits, the more we effortlessly build vibrant health.
So in this regard, keeping blood sugars low is a key component! Additionally, being aware of ingested AGE’s as antagonists to our brain health, and therefore choosing them less often, is an excellent targeted new habit. Fried food and grilled or charred meats have the highest counts of AGE’s. Meats have 20x more than grains and 150x more than fresh fruits & vegetables. Slow cooking, such as crockpot recipes, poaching and adding acids such as vinegar and lemon to the cooking broths or marinades, also lowers the count.
Researchers suggest that one change – a modest reduction in meats in the diet would significantly reduce the presence of AGE’s in our systems. This is being posited as a new strategy in combatting the Alzheimer’s epidemic.
So now, you ask – what do wrinkles have to do with all of this? It turns out that this same process that causes the internal structures of our bodies to become rigid and malformed, happens at the skin level as well.
“The proteins in skin most prone to glycation are the same ones that make a youthful complexion so plump and springy—collagen and elastin. When those proteins hook up with renegade sugars, they become discolored, weak, and less supple; this shows up on the skin’s surface as wrinkles, sagginess, and a loss of radiance.” *
So we have yet another reason (other than brain health, that is!) to take on these AGE’s – vanity! A lot of research has been poured into this side of the equation due to the profit potential of skin products. And one researcher has a simple inexpensive intervention that is both skin beneficial AND brain healthy!
He calls it the “superstar multitasker green tea which has been proven to significantly interfere with the glycation process while stimulating collagen synthesis.” So drink up and start up a new habit!