The Effects of Elevated Glucose on Aging

It has been ascertained that people suffering from diabetes, are more prone to early aging than non-diabetics. The mechanism behind the rapid destruction of tissues, cells and organs as seen in diabetics, is known as glycation.  Glycation is the process whereby excess glucose molecules react with protein and fats resulting in advanced glycation end products (known as AGE) and initiates oxidant stress and inflammation that is linked to diabetes and heart disease.   The formation of AGE seems to be intensified in patients with diabetes as a result of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels).  

The more sugar a person consumes, the more AGE’s are formed.  Sugar is not merely limited to cane sugar, but also refers to fructose and low-quality carb foods such as pasta, white bread, pastries and candies.  Fructose is especially detrimental as it is a pro-inflammatory factor that creates AGE and it promotes the growth of fat cells around vital organs, which speeds up aging. Diets high in carbs and sugars destroy insulin and leptin sensitivity which in turn lead to extra fat accumulation in the cells and results in excess weight.

Below are a few examples of the effects of AGE on aging, and especially in diabetic suffers:

  • Excessive blood glucose can damage proteins in the lens of the eyeball and can cause cataracts and possible blindness.
  • Continuous elevated blood sugar levels can lead to kidney damage (nephropathy).
  • Diabetics are also prone to damaged nerves (neuropathy)
  • When collagen in the arteries deteriorate because of AGE, fatty plaque buildup is more inclined to form and can lead to cardiovascular disease.
  • Likewise, if the collagen in our connective tissue gets cross-linked due to AGE, arthritis can develop.
  • As a person gets older, AGE accumulate in the brain and is present in the neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques of Alzheimer’s patients.  A greater deposition of AGE have been found in diabetics who suffer from Alzheimer’s, making them more prone to this disease.
  • Glycation accelerates the production of destructive free radical molecules that expedite the aging process and increases the risk of age-related diseases.

Collagen is the most common protein in the body and together with elastin which help keep the skin firm and elastic, are the most vulnerable to damage by AGE.  Once impaired, springy and resilient collagen and elastin becomes dry and brittle and leads to wrinkles and sagging.  Diabetics often show early signs of aging due to increased AGE in their skin, as compared to a non-diabetic.  

Promising research has been performed using the fat soluble form of thiamine called Benfotiamine, to help reduce the effects of AGE in diabetic and non-diabetic patients.  Convincing animal studies have shown remarkable benefits to counteract AGE effects on the endothelial cells to reduce inflammatory and nerve-induced pain in diabetic and non-diabetic rats.    Human trials underway have also shown the positive effects of Benfotiamine in supporting tissue structure and function in diabetics. The bottom line is in order to look and feel younger, it is important to reduce sugar intake in our diets.