As we age critical proteins are damaged by the process known as glycation. Glycation is a reaction between proteins and sugars which irreversibly alters the configuration of the protein. These altered proteins, known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), can no longer effectively full fill their role in the body which eventually results in illness and disease. AGEs have been implicated in many of the diseases associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease.
Many people are aware of free radicals and the problems they pose for our health but very few are familiar with AGEs, AGE’s may be just as important as free radicals in initiating the pathological processes associated with illness and aging. While AGEs are destructive on their own they may also interplay with free radicals causing even more havoc on the aging human body. A growing body of sound scientific evidence theorizes that AGEs and similar molecules such as advanced lipoxidation end products, or ALEs (lipids cross-linked with sugars), are significant contributors to many common pathological processes leading to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease.Emerging evidence also suggests that AGEs are important components in the formation of potentially lethal atherosclerotic plaque, a sticky, hard substance that can significantly impede arterial blood flow.
Inhibiting the formation of AGEs and associated molecules is thus an essential part of any preventative or anti-aging protocol. An antioxidant called carnosine has proven to effectively prevent the formation of AGE’s in addition to its ability to quench the most destructive of free radicals. It can also protect the brain by retarding lipid peroxidation and stabilizing cell membranes. Because it is able to both stop the oxidative damage of free radicals and inhibit AGE formation, scientists have postulated that carnosine may have applications in the management of numerous conditions, including arthritis, stomach and duodenal ulcers, high blood pressure, adrenal cortical dysfunction, sleep apnea, chronic inflammation, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Carnosine is a natural, safe and well-tolerated dipeptide comprising the amino acids beta-alanine and L-histidine. L-Carnosine is naturally produced in the body by the enzyme carnosine synthetase. It is found in high concentrations in human brain, nerve tissue, heart, skin, kidneys, stomach and skeletal muscle tissue. The high levels of carnosine in the brain may serve as natural protection against excitotoxicity, copper and zinc toxicity, protein cross-linking and glycation, and especially oxidation of cell membranes. Animal studies show broad protective effects in simulated stroke. New research shows that copper and zinc dramatically stimulate senile plaque formation in Alzheimer’s disease. Chelators of these metals dissolve plaques in the laboratory. Carnosine can also inhibit the cross-linking of amyloid-beta that leads to plaque formation.
Carnosine levels decline with age. Muscle levels decline 63% from age 10 to age 70, which may account for the normal age-related decline in muscle mass and function. Now that many are cutting down on meat—the main dietary source of carnosine—supplementation becomes especially important.
Carnosine supplements are available over the counter.