How Our Modern Lifestyle May Accelerate Aging: Glycation and Methylation
In the previous instalment we saw how by controlling excess oxidation and free radicals, the likelihood of premature aging and degenerative disease can be decreased. It can be decreased further by addressing the other key causes. In this blog, let's look at the role of Glycation and Methylation.
What is Glycation?
Glycation occurs when simple sugar molecules, such as fructose or glucose, become attached to proteins or lipid fats without the moderation of an enzyme. This results in the formation of rogue molecules known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As their name implies, AGEs prompt systematic deterioration and accelerated aging (ref 1).
AGEs do this by binding to cells and causing them to produce poisonous chemicals plus other toxic by-products. As an example, AGEs appear to increase the formation of amyloid beta. This is a toxic material found in the brains of older people and in Alzheimers and dementia patients.
AGEs also stimulate the production of free radicals which in turn eventually leads to more glycation…enter the vicious degenerative cycle.
How can you protect yourself against Glycation and the formation of AGEs?
Please consider these options:
- Minimize your intake of glycating foods…simple/refined carbohydrates and sugars.
- Inactivate the sugar molecules before they attach themselves to the protein.
- Prevent the protein attaching to other proteins/lipids.
The first action is self-explanatory. The next two are fortunately possible thanks to recent scientific discoveries using a dipeptide known as Carnosine.
Carnosine has two unique abilities – It…
- Attaches to glycating ‘agents’ and neutralizes them.
- Puts a protective shield around a protein molecule which already has a glycating agent attached to it. By providing that shield it prevents that protein molecule from ‘cross-linking’ with another protein molecule and forming an AGE.
If Carnosine is such an effective anti-glycation agent, why is it not more widely known and used?
As with L-Glutathione, Carnosine is not effective in most supplements for two reasons.
One is because Carnosine is a di-peptide consisting of two amino acids. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach splits the structure of the Carnosine thus reducing its effectiveness. So it needs to be enteric coated to allow the nutrient to be released in the upper intestine.
Cost is the second issue. Carnosine is a very expensive nutrient and not common in supplements.
Despite these challenges, we have been using Carnosine in our Total Balance range for eight years. In fact, we were one of the first supplement companies in the world to use it.
By addressing glycation, AGEs, excess free radicals and oxidative stress, the likelihood of degenerative disease decreases greatly. To accelerate this positive trend, we also need to reduce abnormal Methylation…
What is Methylation?
Methylation is a process by which a gene's behaviour is altered, but the gene itself isn't changed. The behaviour is altered by chemicals called ‘methyl groups’ which are added to various constituents of proteins, DNA and other molecules. These are needed to keep them in good ‘working’ condition (ref 2).
In essence, without methylation, we would all be dead!
Think of a car - methylation is the spark plug. Without it, everything stops. For example: It causes guanidinoacetic acid to become creatine (high energy). It makes adrenaline from norepinephrine, and melatonin from serotonin. If the ‘feel-good’ brain chemical serotonin is not methylated it will become inactive which may prompt feelings of depression.
One of the most important methylation processes relates to homocysteine. Homocysteine is what remains when methionine is used to methylate proteins and DNA. Homocysteine needs to be methylated to convert it back to methionine. If this process does not happen several degenerative disorders may result including:
- Heart disease and stroke by encouraging the clumping together of platelets
- Higher levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol resulting from reacting with iron and copper ions to produce free radicals
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Liver Disease
- Aging in general, as homocysteine may accelerate the destruction of telemores
Another aging related point is that methylation of certain DNA parts can switch off unnecessary genes and prevent abnormal DNA division. This means that these abnormalities are not passed on to future generations of cells…an important part in successful aging.
As we age the methylation processes in our bodies start getting ‘tired’ and become less efficient. This results in a build-up of homocysteine, DNA damage and the development of the above degenerative disorders.
How can you ensure the methylation process works properly?
There are three groups of compounds which are helpful for methylation with varying levels of efficacy. They are the B Vitamins, B6, B12 and folic acid, Betaine, and SAMe.
The B Vitamins are important as co-factors rather than as ‘the’ solution for methylation in their own right. This is because as we age, these vitamins tend to become ‘sluggish’ and progressively less effective.
By far the most effective and scientifically proven methylating agent is SAMe (S-Adenosyl-Methionine).
SAMe is a natural compound found in all living cells. It is formed by combining the amino acid methionine and ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
SAMe can be taken as a supplement but it is not very effective for the same reasons you discovered about L-Glutathione and Carnosine: cost and susceptibility to stach acids. So it needs to be enteric coated.
Despite the expense, we use enteric coating and use SAMe in several of our supplements along with other effective methylating agents such as the B vitamins and folic acid, methionine and ATP, and Betaine.
You have seen how, by addressing glycation, AGEs, excess free radicals, oxidative stress and abnormal methylation, the likelihood of degenerative disease and premature aging can be reduced. To build on this we also need to reduce Chronic Inflammation which is the topic of the next instalment.
- Definition of Glycation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycation
- Definition of Methylation (DNA) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_methylation
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