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Blood Sugar, Glycation + AGEs
The insidious rise of blood sugar levels has become an epidemic plaguing more than 100 million (or one in three) Americans. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 90% of the population with rising blood sugars are not aware that they even have an issue!12
The result of rising (even high-normal) blood sugar levels are the ravages of glycation.4 What is glycation? Excess sugar molecules in the blood bind to proteins, causing production of toxic compounds called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).
AGEs can accumulate in the body, but are more problematic in the arteries and brain. Think of when collagen breaks down with age causing thin, wrinkled skin—this is the result of glycation.6This same process can happen in your gut, arteries, inner and outer skin surfaces, and, we now know, even in the brain.5,13,14
Eat for Blood Sugar, Microbiome + Longevity
A handful of unhealthy foods can be blamed for this dangerous rise in blood sugar and AGE formation. Obviously, a diet high in sugar is a major risk factor. However, America grew up on toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner, almost every day of the year.
As a result of this highly refined, highly processed, out-of-season, carbohydrate-rich, starchy diet that we’ve been eating for the past 60 years, our gut microbes have become experts at digesting refined carbohydrates and delivering sugar from those carbs into our bloodstream.7 When sugar is abundantly flowing, eating just a few carbs can overwhelm the bloodstream with sugar, increasing risk of glycation.
Eating the same foods day-in and day-out can proliferate a stable of bugs great at digesting those foods. An overwhelming amount of the same food group will stress the body’s ability to utilize nutrients in that food.
This is what happened with refined, starchy carbohydrates. Gut bugs deliver the sugary byproduct of these foods into the bloodstream, which has now caused an epidemic of high-normal blood sugar levels, glycation, and toxic amounts of AGEs.
The other dietary culprits are indigestible polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like canola, sunflower, and safflower oils. PUFAs are used in processed foods to extend shelf life.
PUFAs are highly processed, boiled, bleached, deodorized, and rendered indigestible to gut bacteria. Microbes won’t eat these processed fats, which is why they can stay soft on the shelf for a month or more.
Many studies link processed foods laden with indigestible fats to accumulation of AGEs.1 These indigestible fats end up accumulating in the liver and gallbladder, affecting their digestive acumen. Today, as a result of this bad fat consumption, the number one elective abdominal surgery in America is gallbladder removal.8
Type 2 diabetes is mostly due to breakdown of the liver’s ability to regulate morning blood sugar levels, called gluconeogenesis. Read more on this here.
Finally, pesticides are killing microbes on plants—bad and good ones. This is a problem because we need those microbes to manufacture enzymes to help us digest, detoxify, and make neurotransmitters to keep our brain functioning optimally.2
Fight Glycation + Support Brain Health with Benfotiamine
While it’s important to change one’s diet by avoiding sugary, processed, and non-organic foods, rising blood sugar levels and increasing AGES are an insidious, long-term process, so sometimes just changing the diet doesn’t deliver results as quickly as we would like.
Certain B vitamins have been found to protect against the ravages of AGEs, while supporting healthy blood sugar levels and cognitive function. In particular, benfotiamine—a derivative of vitamin B1 (thiamine)—has been shown in many studies to activate enzymes that positively affect conversion of glucose or sugar metabolites in the blood, positively affecting glycation and formation of AGEs.14
Benfotiamine has been found to support peripheral nerve health and may support vascular health, including microvasculature of the retina and kidney—all areas put at risk by high-normal blood sugar levels, glycation, and AGEs.14
AGEs have been linked to a disturbance in many of the body’s 3,000+ signaling pathways governing communication between the cells and nervous system. Benfotiamine has been found to support many of the signaling pathways negatively affected by AGEs.9,10
AGEs have been linked to a decrease in cognitive function, affecting brain health in the elderly. In one study, benfotiamine was found to boost cognitive function in elderly patients experiencing mild-to-moderate cognitive decline.13
Just 300mg daily of benfotiamine taken for 18 months showed improved cognitive performance by an average of 19% based on follow-up mini-mental status examinations and positron emission tomography (PET) scans.13
Benfotiamine has been shown to enhance activity of transketolase, the enzyme that catalyzes breakdown of harmful glucose metabolites while also diverting glucose sugar metabolites away from glycation or AGE-formation pathways.11
Studies show those supplementing with benfotiamine have a 454% increase in transketolase activity compared to those who did not receive supplementation.
For blood sugar support, changing your diet is the critical first step. If your blood sugar levels in the morning hover in the high-normal range (80 – 99 mg/dl), consider supplemental benfotiamine to mitigate risk of glycation and AGE formation.