Nancy Appleton, Ph.D.
In 1912, a Frenchman
by the name of Louis Maillard found out that the reason that
some foods discolored and toughened when they were cooked
was due to a chemical attachment of the sugar (glucose) in
the food to protein.
This reaction causes
toast to turn brown and steak to toughen during cooking. It
takes a high temperature to bind these glucose and protein
molecules. He found out that this attachment changed the structure
of the protein, and it could be a problem for this new structured
food to digest, assimilate and metabolize in the body.
and frying, most processed foods are heated to high temperatures,
and the Maillard Reaction is a problem for any food heated
to a high temperature. Since 1912, more research has come
out on the Maillard Reaction, or the browning reaction, because
cancer has been linked with this process.
are continually trying to find a method to slow or stop this
reaction in processed food. To me, it seems better to not
eat foods that are processed using high temperatures rather
than looking for a magic potion to stop the reaction, which
might cause its own problems, or looking for a pill to give
someone who has eaten over- processed foods to stop the reaction,
which again might have its own side effects.
Recently, new research
has shown that this same reaction, of sugar binding with protein
in an abnormal way, can go on in the body when our blood glucose
becomes, and stays, elevated.
In 2002, the consumption
of sugar is approximately 170 pounds per person per year in
the United States. This glut of sugar can cause some to have
elevated blood glucose -- much more elevated than in the
past when we ate less sugar. When our blood and our blood
cells become awash with this sugar continually, the sugar
can become bound nonenzymatically with protein.
That might not
sound so harmful but it is. There is a normal process where
sugar binds enzymatically to protein in our body and forms
glycoproteins that are essential to the working of our body.
All of these chemical reactions in living tissues are under
strict enzymatic control and conform to a tightly regulated
metabolic program. When enzymes attach glucose to proteins,
they do so at a specific site, on a specific molecule, for
a specific purpose.
Sugar and protein
are not supposed to bind nonenzymatically. When they do, the
product that is formed is called glycated protein or Advanced
Glycated End Product (AGE). This process can permanently alter
the molecular structure of the protein and, as a result, alter
the way these AGE function in the body. The protein becomes
toxic to the body.
cells to not function optimally, causes damage to the body,
and results in an exhausted immune system. Degeneration takes
place over time. These changes can start as minor disturbances
or disabilities and later continue on to become specific illnesses.
This damage to
the proteins takes place in two stages. The first product
that is formed by glucose attacking the protein is called
a Schiff's base, which stays in the body for a few days. The
Schiff's base is unstable and will undergo a slow chemical
rearrangement that will last several weeks until it forms
a more stable union, the Amadori products.
have more reactions until they form AGE, which irreversible.
AGE are characterized as brown or fluorescent pigments and
seem to promote many age related complications, such as atherosclerosis,
hypertension, cataracts, macular degeneration, joint stiffness,
rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
Glycation of blood
proteins takes place when the levels of glucose shoot up and
stay high. Anyone who drinks just one soft drink, eats a candy
bar or a donut on an empty stomach will find that the levels
of glucose in their blood shoot up. The average person living
in the United States today drinks over 576 12-ounce servings
of soft drinks per year, or 1.6 12-ounce cans per day. The
average teenaged boy drinks 868 soft drinks per year.
Each soft drink
has 10 teaspoons of sugar, so each person is getting about
one-quarter cup of sugar each day from soft drinks alone.
The average person consumes over one-half cup of total sugar
a day. This excess can make the blood awash with sugar much
of the time, leading to ramifications such as the immune system
A recent study
presented at the annual meeting of the Diabetes Association
in San Francisco shows that eating browned foods may cause
heart attacks, strokes and nerve damage.
known for many years that cooking proteins with sugars in
the absence of water forms AGEs that can damage tissues in
the body. Diabetics suffer a very high incidence of nerve,
artery and kidney damage because high blood sugar levels in
their bodies markedly accelerate the chemical reactions that
form advanced glycation products.
news is that eating foods with these AGE raises blood and
tissue levels and increases nerve damage. Cooking with water
prevents sugars from binding to proteins to form these poisonous
water causes sugars to combine with proteins to form AGE.
So, baking, roasting and broiling cause the poisonous advanced
glycation products to form, while boiling and steaming prevent
them. According to these new findings, brown foods, such as
brown cookies, brown bread crust, brown basted meats, brown
beans, and even brown coffee beans may increase nerve damage,
particularly in diabetics who are unusually susceptible to
On the other hand,
since steamed and boiled vegetables, whole grains, beans and
fruits are made with water, they do not contain significant
amounts of advanced glycation products. This is certainly
another reason to remove as much sugar from your diet as possible,
as soon as possible, and eat much of your food raw or steamed.
is the author of Lick
the Sugar Habit, Lick
the Sugar Habit Sugar Counter, The
Curse of Louis Pasteur, Heal
Yourself with Natural Foods, and Healthy
Her Web site is:
to Nancy for the sugar update. She has written the classic
the Sugar Habit as well as a number of articles for this
site, which are listed below.
One of my passions
Typing, which identifies your individual biochemical and
genetic requirements. One thing is clear regardless of your
nutritional type-sugar is not good for you.
One of my other
passions is seeking to consume as much raw food as possible.
Consuming raw foods tends to limit many of the problems with
AGE-related proteins discussed above.
We also have
the modern day exposure to acrylamide,
a chemical listed as a probable carcinogen, which is thought
to be formed by the heating of starches. It has been in the
news lately and will provide increasing evidence of the harm
of cooking many foods.
Some light at
the end of the tunnel: sugar is not bad for everyone at all
times. If you are healthy and of normal body weight, it appears
that raw honey, used in moderation, is an acceptable sweetener.
Ways That Sugar Can Destroy Your Health
Grazing and Frequent Meals
is No Answer For a Sweetener
Bunn, F., and P. J. Higgins, "Reaction of Monosaccharides
with Protein: Possible Evolutionary Significance,"
Science, July 10,1981;213
"Food Consumption" Pg.9. http://ers.usda.gov/
publications/ sb965/ sb965f.pdf. Projected upon 1997's
consumption. Viewed on Nov 2, 2002.
Szymanska U.and Boratynski J. "Protein Glycation-Clinical
and Chemical Aspects." Postepy Hig Med Dosw. 1999;53(5):689-703.
"Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs) and Cataract
- Distribution in different types of cataract." http://www.dog.org/
2001/ abstract_german/ Dawczynski_e.htm,Viewed Oct 22,
Tabaton, M., et al, "Is Amyloid Beta-protein Glycated
in Alzheimer's Disease?"
Ishibashi, T., et al. "Advanced Glycation End Products
in Age-related Macular Degeneration."Arch Ophthalmol..
MacLennan, A. "Identification of the Advanced Glycation
End Products N[epsilon-carboxymethyllysine in the Synovial
Tissue of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis."
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (ARD Online) Sep 12, 2002.
Viewed Oct.10, 2002
Furth, A. J. "Glycated Proteins in Diabetes.".Br
J Biomed Sci. Sep1997;54(3):192-200.
Furth, Anna and John Harding, "Why Sugar Is Bad For
You," New Scientist. September 23, 1989:44.
"Liquid Candy" Center for Science in the Public
Mirkin, Gabe."Advanced Glycation End Products."
archive. Viewed Oct 1, 2002.