AGE restriction in diabetes mellitus: a paradigm shift

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2011 May 24;7(9):526-39. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2011.74.


Persistently elevated oxidative stress and inflammation precede or occur during the development of type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus and precipitate devastating complications. Given the rapidly increasing incidence of diabetes mellitus and obesity in the space of a few decades, new genetic mutations are unlikely to be the cause, instead pointing to environmental initiators. A hallmark of contemporary culture is a preference for thermally processed foods, replete with pro-oxidant advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). These molecules are appetite-increasing and, thus, efficient enhancers of overnutrition (which promotes obesity) and oxidant overload (which promotes inflammation). Studies of genetic and nongenetic animal models of diabetes mellitus suggest that suppression of host defenses, under sustained pressure from food-derived AGEs, may potentially shift homeostasis towards a higher basal level of oxidative stress, inflammation and injury of both insulin-producing and insulin-responsive cells. This sequence promotes both types of diabetes mellitus. Reducing basal oxidative stress by AGE restriction in mice, without energy or nutrient change, reinstates host defenses, alleviates inflammation, prevents diabetes mellitus, vascular and renal complications and extends normal lifespan. Studies in healthy humans and in those with diabetes mellitus show that consumption of high amounts of food-related AGEs is a determinant of insulin resistance and inflammation and that AGE restriction improves both. This Review focuses on AGEs as novel initiators of oxidative stress that precedes, rather than results from, diabetes mellitus. Therapeutic gains from AGE restriction constitute a paradigm shift.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / administration & dosage
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects


  • Glycation End Products, Advanced