Food allergies are no laughing matter.
They can leave you with everything from hives and headaches to digestive upset and chronic inflammation. What’s more, if you suffer an extreme allergic reaction to something you’re eating, it can kill you.
Frighteningly, the number of those deadly reactions is climbing. Researchers investigating these allergies say their growing frequency is connected to a particular class of chemicals in our meals and snacks. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself…
The drastic increase in food allergies during the past few years has become a persistent danger for those who are sensitive to food. It is estimated that 15 million Americans suffer from some variety of food allergies. And those allergic reactions lead to about 30,000 emergency room visits annually. Plus, they kill between 150 to 200 people in the U.S. every year.1
The hidden root cause of the rise in this allergy danger, researchers believe, is chronic inflammation in our bodies set off by what are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
The Trouble With AGEs
AGEs form when protein or fatty acids combine with sugars. This process can happen in the body, but it also takes place when foods are cooked. When food is prepared, AGEs form during what’s called the “Maillard reaction.”
Basically, this reaction takes place during the heating and browning of food when fats and protein and sugar interact with each other in the food. This is the process that makes toast tastier and gives steaks and burgers that enjoyable semi-charred taste. It also gives coffee a more powerful dark flavor.
Having some AGEs in your food is just about unavoidable.
But food companies – knowing that the Maillard reaction results in food having more appealing taste, appearance, and aroma – make sure that the processed foods they sell contain huge quantities of AGEs.
That’s a potential problem if you eat the large amount of processed food that fills the typical American diet. And, if you look at the statistics on what we’re eating, we have a vast appetite for what’s called “ultra-processed food” (food lacking nutrients but high in calories).
Figures compiled by researchers in Europe show that our consumption of these foods has jumped from eleven percent of our daily calories in the 1990s to 32 percent of our daily calories today.2 Plus, researchers in Spain believe that this increase in ultra-processed food has contributed to more people dying at younger ages – and they have the stats to back up that belief.3
One of the prime dangers of high consumption of AGEs is the effect it has on the immune system.
Immune System Killer
Without going into all the complicated details, when you eat foods with a large number of AGEs, many of these chemicals can remain in your body for three days. During that time, they cause oxidative stress and interact with immune cell receptors that put the immune cells on high alert.
That state of high alert makes the immune cells more likely to set off alarms when certain foods are eaten – a type of all-hands-on-deck reaction that summons an allergic response to, for instance, peanuts, milk, eggs, and soy (some of the most common food allergies). This can occur even though those foods are benign and pose no health risk. The only real risk, in those cases, is the immune system’s own over-reaction.4
Other health risks linked to AGEs, according to researchers at Texas Woman’s University, include an astounding number of problems – Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, anemia, eye diseases, diabetes, sleep apnea… the list goes on and on!5
Get Rid of AGEs Before they Threaten Your Entire Body
To lower the number of AGEs in your food, your first move should be to limit the processed food you eat.
Next is to cook with lower temperatures – the higher the heat you use in the kitchen, the more AGEs form in your food. Unfortunately, grilling, broiling, roasting, searing, and frying increase the AGEs in the dishes you prepare.
You can also lower AGEs by cooking with moist heat – steaming, poaching, boiling, and stewing limit AGE formation.
In addition, if you use acidic marinades like vinegar or lemon juice before cooking, that also limits the AGEs in your food.
This news isn’t surprising. If anything, the science provides even more motivation to stay away from processed foods and instead eat fresh, organic food. In addition, the danger of AGEs is a key reason that many experts now believe how your food is prepared is as important to your health as its nutritional content. So be intentional about your food choices, think carefully about how you prepare your food as well.
- https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6615a2.htm#:~:text=Food allergies affect an estimated,
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