For centuries, and indeed as far back as Hippocrates, countless
leaders in the field of health have warned us that what we eat
can greatly affect our mental and physical well being. Since
then, hundreds of fad diets have come and gone. From low-fat to
low-carb, vegan to Paleo, and everything in between, seemingly
every possible eating plan has been devised and touted. And yet,
with all the promises of good health, weight control, and longer life,
we are not getting any healthier. In fact, the number of degenerative
diseases continues to explode. What have we been missing? Is there
some strategy that could actually provide us with more vitality,
greater health, and even a longer lifespan? Fortunately, the answer is
a resounding yes.
Forty years ago as a young researcher, I worked with a team of
other scientists to examine a class of destructive substances that
accumulate in people with diabetes. These toxic substances were
found to hasten many dangerous complications of diabetes, such as
vascular disease and nerve damage. The aim of the research team
was to understand the nature of these compounds. Were they a direct
cause of the diabetes? Were they by-products of another process?
Exactly how did they damage the body? There was much to learn.
And what we discovered was something completely unexpected
These destructive substances were not related to a deficiency or
excess of vitamins or minerals, nor were they contaminants in the
same sense that heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial waste are.
Yet their path of damage was clear. The compounds were found to be
directly linked to virtually every aspect of aging and degenerative
disease, including cardiovascular and kidney diseases, bone loss,
cognitive and neurological issues, and the weight gain and wrinkles
that creep up on us as we age.
The researchers called these toxic substances advanced glycation
end products, or AGEs. The acronym AGE was actually coined to
remind us that these compounds are linked to the accelerated aging
that is part of diabetes and other chronic diseases. It was already clear
that having high blood sugar levels caused more AGEs to form in the
body. What we did not suspect until much later was that most AGEs
actually enter the body with our food—and that they have the potential
to affect many more people than was previously believed!
Over the past two decades, studies in both animals and humans
have strengthened the case for AGEs as key players in many of the
diseases that plague the modern world. A striking realization
throughout these studies was that food AGE intake goes hand in
hand with markers of inflammation, which has long been known to
underlie most chronic degenerative diseases.
Unfortunately, the existence and nature of AGEs remain largely
unknown to the general public—and, for that matter, to many health
care professionals, as well. The translation of research into clinical
practice is notoriously slow in the medical community, even in
today’s information-obsessed world. Meanwhile, our modern health
predicament is all too clear: We may now live longer, but we struggle
with poorer health.
The intention of this book is to open your mind to a whole new
way of thinking about food and health. It exposes a root cause of the
modern “lifestyle diseases,” including obesity, cardiovascular disease,
diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and many more.
But it also shares exciting and inspiring news: We have found that as
people adopt the AGE-less diet, regardless of age or health status,
indicators of inflammation and disease quickly plummet. This book
will show you how you, too, can reap the benefits of AGE-less eating.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One helps you understand
AGEs and how you can minimize your exposure to these harmful
compounds. Chapter 1 provides a brief but illuminating look at
the groundbreaking research that led to our current understanding of
AGEs. In this chapter, you will get a sense of how long, difficult, and,
yes, fascinating the history of AGE science has been.
Chapter 2 focuses on the science of AGEs. What exactly are these
compounds? How do they form in the body? Why are they so prevalent
in the modern diet? And how do they cause us so much harm?
Chapter 2 answers these questions and more, all while making AGE
science easy to understand.
Chapter 3 takes a closer look at the many health problems that are
linked to excess exposure to AGEs. You will find that AGEs are intertwined
with virtually every aspect of chronic disease and aging, from
arthritis to diabetes; from Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular disease.
While this may seem disheartening, it also provides a simple key to
better health—improving diet to provide fewer AGEs.
By the time you reach Chapter 4, you will know that the main
source of AGEs in the body is the food you eat. In this chapter, you
learn exactly which foods provide large amounts of AGEs, and which
foods offer good nutrition without burdening the body with an
excess of these substances. Best of all, Chapter 4 presents the three
basic principles of healthy AGE-less eating.
At this point, you may wonder if you have to abandon your current
diet to eat the AGE-less way. Fortunately, AGE-less principles
can be applied to any type of diet. Chapter 5 focuses on five of
the most popular diet philosophies: low-carbohydrate diets, low-fat
diets, the Mediterranean diet, the Paleolithic diet, and various forms
of the vegetarian diet. You will see how simple it is to integrate
AGE-less principles into these and other diets to make them even
Once you’ve learned the basics of eating the AGE-less way, it will
be time to stock your pantry with healthy foods. Chapter 6 highlights
foods that can fit into an AGE-less eating plan, offers smart substitutions
for high-AGE foods and ingredients, and provides additional
tips for selecting and preparing foods. You will find that AGE-less
food can be tasty, easy to prepare, and economical.
Although it’s important to center your diet on low-AGE foods,
the way in which you prepare your foods is just as important as the
foods you choose. This is because while some cooking methods promote
the formation of large amounts of AGEs, other methods greatly
minimize AGE formation. Chapter 7 guides you in the use of simple
AGE-less cooking technique, including braising, boiling, poaching,
pressure cooking, slow cooking, simmering, stewing, and steaming.
In addition, it offers practical tips for preparing some of your favorite
foods with fewer AGEs.
Increasingly, people are eating away from home or picking up
take-out fare rather cooking meals in their kitchen. Besides being
generally higher in calories and lower in nutrition, food prepared
outside the home often makes AGE-overload a near certainty. But it
doesn’t have to be that way. Chapter 8 guides you to the best choices
when eating out, enabling you to make the most of the menu’s offerings
in a wide variety of settings while keeping your AGE load at a
Throughout this book, we assure you that AGE-less food can be
delicious and satisfying. But tasting is believing. That’s why Part Two
of Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet offers over a hundred recipes that
emphasize low-AGE foods and employ AGE-less cooking techniques.
From breakfasts to desserts, from main courses to sides, these
dishes are not just easy to make, but also easy to love. Just as important,
each includes Nutrition Facts—calorie, carbohydrate, fiber, protein,
fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calcium counts—so
you can be sure that the recipes you choose match your dietary needs
Beyond a doubt, research has shown that AGEs are the “missing
link” which explains why our modern diet is so strongly associated
with inflammation and a wide range of chronic diseases. While this
may strike you as just one more piece of bad news, the truth is that
AGEs pose a problem which you can control with ease and at no
extra cost. It is our hope that you will use the information provided in
this book to introduce small but important changes that can make a
real difference to your health and that of your loved ones. We wish
you greater health and many satisfying meals to come.