Glycation of Sugars

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of the most important and under-recognized causes of accelerated aging is a chemical process called “glycation” (also known as “glycosylation”). Best thought of as a reaction between sugar and protein (and sometimes fat). Glycation can be thought of as a type of caramelization, a candy making technique that creates a characteristic confectionary quality that candy cooks have exploited for centuries. During the caramelization process, sugar is heated to high temperatures until it turns brown. And it’s not just candy that caramelizes, or glycates. The same phenomenon occurs when bread is toasted, or onions or potatoes are grilled. French toasted bread, fried onions and French fried potatoes, also are among culinary delights that are carmelized.

Glycation of sugarsIn the body, caramelization/glycation of sugars can occur in conjunction with proteins, and as with caramelization of foods this can manifest itself as browning and subsequent degradation of various structures. Smaller systems are especially likely to be damaged; most especially tiny blood vessels and capillaries. Glycation is a leading cause of blindness and kidney diseases. Both structures are packed with thousands of miles of microscopic circulatory vessels. The net effect of this kind of damage can result in pockets of oxygen deprived, nutritionally starved, and toxin drenched tissue. Not good!

Even worse, there an important relationship between glycation and oxidation, which is thought to play an important part in accelerated aging. As it turns out, glycated proteins can be a source of free radicals that are responsible for the oxidation, which can be thought of as a type of “biological rusting”. In an article published in the journal “Glycobiology”, researchers claimed that glycated proteins produce 50 times more free radicals than non-glycated proteins. According to the article, free radicals amplify the production of inflammatory peptides and the net result is not only rapid aging of organs and tissues, but also many health challenges including diabetes, neuro-degeneration, and kidney failure.

The best way to protect yourself from glycation is to keep your blood sugar concentration as low as possible. There should only be around one (1) teaspoonful of sugar floating around in the blood at any given moment. It’s not uncommon for blood sugar concentration to double after a carbohydrate-laden meal. Reducing your intake of refined carbs (flour, fruit juice, cereals, dessert, etc.) should be a priority, making sure you’re taking in lots of water, especially after drinking a soda pop or indulging a sweet or a starchy bread-filled meal. Supplements can also be beneficial. The B-complex stands out in importance, especially Vitamins B1 and B3. Use a B-100 or something like Youngevity’s Beyond Tangy Tangerine. Vitamin C is important too, 1000mg maybe. Minerals like Magnesium Glycinate, Zinc , Selenium, Chromium, and Vanadium are known to help the body process sugar. Arginine and Taurine are two amino acids that improve sugar metabolism and the B-vitamin-like substance choline can be helpful, too.

*Did you know that the sugar beet and sugar cane are excellent sources of many of the nutrients that the body needs to process carbs?*

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Sugar is the Adversary!

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

When it comes to good health and nutrition there are clearly many hurdles and adversaries that must be addressed and conquered. However, a strong case can be made, that no adversary is more formidable or needs to be addressed more that the one known as SUGAR! Now aside from the fact the body really has a hard time processing sugar and aside from the fact that the body’s insulin response to sugar can be as problematic as the sugar itself, (we’ll be talking more about that later), there is the whole subject of sugar’s effects on the skin.

You see sugar explodes, witness the sugar we call ethanol that is used to run cars. Think of a marshmallow when it’s lit in a campfire, poof!. This reaction that sugar has with burning is actually an important part of biochemistry and how energy is produced in the body. Sugar in the form of glucose reacts with oxygen and a type of burning takes place and that’s how we get the energy to blink an eye, think a thought, wiggle a toe and generally move about the world.

The problem starts when there’s too much sugar around and this burning (which is technically called oxidation) goes out of control. Then you have these burnt sugar particles (I’m not being technical here) floating around. These burnt sugar particles are very reactive and one of their favorite things to react with is…protein, as in, the body’s protein. That means every single part of the body is at risk. In fact every single cell of the body is at risk to damage from this burning process which is called glycation. And by the way fructose is a lot more susceptible to glycation than glucose. Which is another reason to stay away from high fructose corn syrup.

Fructose is also associated with elevated uric acid levels and all the fructose we’re ingesting may be one of the reasons why gout, which is a type of arthritis is becoming such a problem. Incidence of gout is increasing and it’s especially increasing among women. Because of the chemical nature of fructose, it is more likely to react with proteins than glucose, some studies say 10 times more likely.

Now, cell receptors are made of protein and because they’re the link to hormones like insulin and thyroid hormone and digestive hormones, you can see how this glycation process, which remember is the result of eating too many potatoes and Twinkies can wreak havoc on multiple systems in the body. So you’re stomach’s bothering you or your thyroid’s not working like it should for example and you go to the doctor, what’s he or she gonna do? Probably put you on some drug like Synthroid or Lomotil to do what? To TREAT THE SYMPTOM!!! And that’s a classic example of why our medical model doesn’t work. Now glycation can affect a lot of other biological systems.

Take the vasculature. Because blood vessels are in large part composed of proteins like collagen, glycation issues can weaken blood vessels leading to cardiovascular issues like stroke and aneurysms. The body attempts to patch up weak vasculature with cholesterol, so now you’ve got plaques. And what’s pharmaceutical solution? Of course it’s a statin drug that stops the liver from making cholesterol. Or some well-meaning medical person will tell you to stop eating fatty or cholesterol-rich foods. But the problem isn’t cholesterol. That’s just the symptom. Once again if you back track far enough upstream you’ll find the problem is very likely too much sugar. It’s a dietary problem. It’s a food problem. It’s a lifestyle problem. It’s a choice problem.

And that’s the good news, that’s The bright side! We’re not sick or defective, we’re simply making the wrong choices. Glycation of the vasculature in the extremities, the fingers and toes and hands and feet can cause neuropathies, nerve pain and can even lead to amputations. Glycation in the small blood vessels in the eye can ultimately lead to blindness. And diabetes is a well known cause of both amputations and blindness. When it comes to the skin, which is my area of expertise, now you’ve got glycation-caused accelerated skin aging. That means photodamage and wrinkles. Wrinkles are caused by breakdowns in skin proteins and one of the leading causes is sugar glycation. If you’re eating the standard American diet of soda pop and desserts grains and fruits, and you’re worried about wrinkles and skin aging it’s not gonna do you much good to stay out of the sun. And I don’t if they’re whole or processed or whatever, grains are a major source of sugar . Especially corn! Glycation and sugar reactions are far more dangerous to skin health than any reasonable exposure to the sun.

And then there’s cellulite. One of the causes of orange-peel cellulite, and there are several factors involved, but one of the things that happens is connective tissue, in other words proteins, like collagen break down. Connective tissue, which is located in the bottom layers of the skin, which is called the dermis, acts to separate fat into little compartments or chambers. When sugar attacks, glycates connective tissue it degrades it ,and the fat can now leak out. And viola, you’ve got your wonderful orange-peel, cottage cheese look.

So, while there are many factors involved in the formation of cellulite in many ways it can be considered a connective tissue disorder. So if you’re eating lots of glycating sugars it doesn’t matter how much cellulite cream you put on. There’s lots of nutrients you can take to protect yourself from the ravages of sugar and glycation and we’ll be talking a lot about specific supplements today and in the weeks to come but for now please understand for skin health, connective tissue health, circulatory health, for looking good and feeling good, we’ve got to begin to address the impact of the choices we make around the foods we eat.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition