Have you ever wondered what makes cinnamon rolls so irresistible? I don’t know about you, but whenever I walk past a Cinnabon, I am bombarded by an unmistakable and mouth-watering aroma.
But what exactly makes them smell and taste so wonderful? The ingredients alone don’t explain it. Like, if I put white flour, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors, cinnamon, and sugar (a lot of sugar) in a bowl, it wouldn’t produce that characteristic Cinnabon fragrance, nor would it taste particularly good.
You can see where I’m going with this. Obviously, the cooking process is the mediating factor here. More specifically, I am referring to the Maillard reaction. When amino acids and reducing sugars are exposed to high heat, hundreds of flavor compounds are generated. Food generally becomes browner, and it tastes and smells extra enticing. And this feature is obviously not exclusive to cinnamon rolls. The scent and flavor of roasted coffee, toasted marshmallows, fried bacon, grilled burgers, freshly baked bread, are all results of this chemical reaction.
Humans almost universally gravitate to foods that have been exposed to this process. However, our affinity for these compounds is a bit of a paradox, because of the negative long term effects that they seem to have on our health.
On this episode of humanOS Radio, we welcome Pankaj Kapahi to the show. Pankaj is a professor at the Buck Institute, an independent biomedical research institute that is devoted solely to research on aging. He and his team have also begun to investigate the role of advanced glycation end products (also known as AGEs) in the aging process. Advanced glycation end products are compounds that are formed when proteins or lipids become glycated, as a result of being exposed to sugars.
As I mentioned above, this has been carefully studied and exploited by the food industry for decades, because of its appealing effects on sensory qualities of food. However, it was only recognized comparatively recently that AGEs may impair our health and function over time.
Aptly enough, the formation and accumulation of AGEs is a hallmark of age. AGEs wreak havoc by binding with cell surface receptors and cross-linking with body proteins, altering their structure and function. This produces a range of deleterious effects throughout the body.
So, how can we reduce our exposure to advanced glycation end products in the food that we eat? And how can we control the formation of AGEs inside the body? To learn more, check out the interview below!