It is one thing for toxic food compounds to be found in adults, who make their own food choices, but it is another issue altogether when we begin finding toxic food compounds in infants and young children. Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine just brought this issue to light; they found that Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs), a toxic food compound, are often present at high levels in the bloodstreams of infants.1 Research over the past 20 years has implicated AGEs in most diseases associated with aging, such as: Alzheimer’s disease, cancers, type II diabetes, stroke, visual impairment, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, kidney disorders, skin disorders, and autoimmune diseases.
So, where are these AGEs in infants coming from? It turns out excessive food AGEs, through both maternal blood transmission and baby formula, are to blame. Commercial infant formulas are deleterious to the health of infants, not just because of the deprivation micronutrients provided by breast milk, but also because infant formulas themselves contain toxins and harmful levels of AGEs. Formulas that are processed under high heat contain as much as 100 times more AGEs than human breast milk, delivering a heaping dose of AGEs to infants at a period when they are extremely vulnerable to toxins.
The food a mother consumes during pregnancy also has an effect on the AGE levels found in the bloodstream of her infant once he or she is born. The combination of infant formula with a mother’s diet of modern American fare is clearly dangerous for vulnerable newborns.
The Mount Sinai study found that newborn babies had levels of AGEs in their blood as high as their adult mothers right after birth. Within the first year of life, after switching from breast milk onto commercial formulas, each infant’s AGEs had doubled to levels seen in people with diabetes, and many had elevated insulin levels!
Other studies have confirmed a link between the consumption of foods high in AGEs, diabetes and obesity.2,3. When diabetes patients were put on an AGE-restricted diet, they had a 35 percent reduction in blood insulin levels, well beyond that of their previous therapeutic regimen. Inflammation went down and immune system strength went up. This study’s remarkable results exemplify that a reduction in AGE-rich foods can have powerful results, which should provide expectant mothers with even more incentive to avoid AGE-rich foods and breastfeed.
Advanced Glycation End products are found predominantly in foods that have been cooked using dry heat, such as potato chips, French fries and grilled meats. Processed foods are generally high in AGEs. Hard pretzels, cereals, and crackers are also serious offenders. The best action we can take to avoid AGEs is to eat as many unprocessed, natural foods as possible. Fruits and vegetables are naturally very low in AGEs as are foods cooked using water, such as soups and stews.
Pregnant mothers, non-pregnant mothers, non-mothers and males, take heed! Turn down the heat, use water and eat mostly natural plant-based foods at home. Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of AGEs and we have the power in our hands to make sure our children are not harmed from the get-go.
1. Mericq V, Piccardo C, Cai W, et al. Maternally Transmitted and Food-Derived Glycotoxins: A factor preconditioning the young to diabetes? Diabetes Care. 2010; 33(10): 2232-2237.
2. Uribarri J, Cai W, Ramdas M, et al. Restriction of Advanced Glycatioin End Products Improves Insulin Resistance in Human Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2011; 34(7): 1610-1616.
3. Yamagishi S, Maeda S, Matsui T, et al. Role of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) and oxidative stress in vascular complications in diabetes. Science Direct. 2011. Available online before printing 25 March 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbagen.2011.03.014