Monday, July 10, 2017

Once Upon a Time There Was Glycation

And it was found to be a big trouble-maker. Here’s the story: 
It is common that people with diabetes exhibit mental decline. Doctors & scientists noticed that the worse the hyperglycemia or erratic blood sugar, the greater the negative affect on mental capacity. They started wondering how sugar might be affecting the brain. 
They knew that neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s share something---deformed proteins in the brain. They also knew that deformed proteins, called prions, occur in the brain in Mad Cow Disease.
What was causing the deformation of these proteins?
Back in the early 1900’s something called the Maillard Reaction was discovered, in which sugar molecules spontaneously bond to proteins, fats, and amino acids. But it wasn’t until the 1980’s that this became revealing in trying to understand diabetic complications and aging.
The Maillard Reaction creates advanced glycation end products, or AGE’s, and these AGE’s include misshapen and deformed proteins. Glycated proteins hook up with other damaged proteins in cross-linkages, which worsens their dysfunction.
AGE’s are connected with aging in lots of ways—aging of our skin, kidney disease, damage to blood vessels, and mental decline. They stimulate inflammation throughout the body.
       It appears that if we want to keep our mental functions healthy as long as possible, one thing we can do is try to minimize the glycation of proteins. And that means reducing the availability of sugar.