Scientists find the cause of overeating and unhealthy food choices

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The struggle with overeating and making unhealthy food choices is a common issue for many people, and it’s influenced by various factors.

One lesser-known factor is the presence of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in cooked and processed foods. AGEs are chemicals that form when sugars combine with proteins, lipids, or nucleic acids.

These compounds make food taste more delicious but can also lead to health problems.

Researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have explored how AGEs contribute to overeating and the difficulties we face in making healthy food choices.

The Allure of Flavorful, High-Calorie Foods

People often find it challenging to resist the appeal of flavorful, high-calorie foods. Natural selection has favored genes that drive us to consume such foods, especially those rich in sugar.

These preferences helped our ancestors store excess calories as fat to survive periods of food scarcity. But what exactly makes it so difficult for us to say ‘no’ to these tempting foods?

The Role of AGEs

AGEs, or advanced glycation end products, are metabolic by-products that form when sugars combine with other molecules.

They occur naturally during cellular metabolism but are also produced when cooking, baking, frying, or grilling. AGEs are found in many processed foods, contributing to their appealing taste and aroma.

The “browning” effect that occurs during cooking, known as the Maillard reaction, results in the formation of numerous AGEs.

The Dark Side of AGEs

While the Maillard reaction enhances food’s flavor, the resulting AGEs can have detrimental effects on the body.

These compounds cause inflammation and oxidative damage, contributing to various health issues such as blood vessel stiffness, hypertension, kidney disease, cancer, and neurological problems.

AGEs are believed to be one of the primary drivers of aging in organs and the overall organism.

AGEs and Overeating

Even tiny worms in laboratory experiments couldn’t resist the allure and damage caused by AGEs. Researchers observed that these chemicals not only led to diseases and reduced lifespan but also increased the worms’ appetite for more AGEs.

The study aimed to uncover the biochemical signaling pathway responsible for this overeating.

Understanding the Signaling Pathway

Through their research, scientists identified specific AGEs that increased food consumption in worms.

Further investigation revealed a particular mutation and AGE molecule that mediated increased food intake through a tyramine-dependent pathway.

This groundbreaking work is the first to pinpoint the signaling pathway linked to specific AGEs that enhance overeating and neurodegeneration.

Implications and Future Research

The research indicates that limiting the accumulation of AGEs is essential for mitigating diseases like obesity and neurodegeneration.

This knowledge can help us better understand the overconsumption of modern diets rich in AGEs.

To reduce AGEs in our bodies, we can adopt practices like eating whole grains, using wet heat cooking methods, and adding acid during food preparation to slow down AGE formation.


AGEs play a significant role in making food more enticing but also contribute to overeating and various health problems.

Understanding the signaling pathway influenced by specific AGEs is crucial for combating obesity and age-related diseases.

By being mindful of our food choices and taking steps to limit AGE accumulation, we can make healthier decisions and gain better control over our eating habits.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies that vitamin D can help reduce inflammation, and vitamin K may lower your heart disease risk by a third.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about foods that could sharp your brain, and results showing cooking food in this way may raise your risk of blindness.

The research findings can be found in eLife.

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