A comparison of dicarbonyl stress and advanced glycation endproducts in lifelong endurance athletes vs. sedentary controls

J Sci Med Sport. 2017 Oct;20(10):921-926. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2017.03.011. Epub 2017 Mar 23.


Objectives: Dicarbonyl stress and high concentrations of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) relate to an elevated risk for cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Exercise training lowers the risk for future CVD. We tested the hypothesis that lifelong endurance athletes have lower dicarbonyl stress and AGEs compared to sedentary controls and that these differences relate to a better cardiovascular health profile.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Methods: We included 18 lifelong endurance athletes (ATH, 61±7years) and 18 sedentary controls (SED, 58±7years) and measured circulating glyoxal (GO), methylglyoxal (MGO) and 3-deoxyglucosone (3DG) as markers of dicarbonyl stress. Furthermore, we measured serum levels of protein-bound AGEs NƐ-(carboxymethyl)lysine (CML), NƐ-(carboxyethyl)lysine (CEL), methylglyoxal-derived hydroimidazolone-1 (MG-H1), and pentosidine. Additionally, we measured cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2peak) and cardiovascular health markers.

Results: ATH had lower concentrations of MGO (196 [180-246] vs. 242 [207-292] nmol/mmol lysine, p=0.043) and 3DG (927 [868-972] vs. 1061 [982-1114] nmol/mmol lysine, p<0.01), but no GO compared to SED. ATH demonstrated higher concentrations CML and CEL compared to SED. Pentosidine did not differ across groups and MG-H1 was significantly lower in ATH compared to SED. Concentrations of MGO en 3DG were inversely correlated with cardiovascular health markers, whereas CML and CEL were positively correlated with VO2peak and cardiovascular health markers.

Conclusion: Lifelong exercise training relates to lower dicarbonyl stress (MGO and 3DG) and the AGE MG-H1. The underlying mechanism and (clinical) relevance of higher CML and CEL concentrations among lifelong athletes warrants future research, since it conflicts with the idea that higher AGE concentrations relate to poor cardiovascular health outcomes.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Exercise physiology; Oxidative stress; Physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Athletes*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Deoxyglucose / analogs & derivatives*
  • Deoxyglucose / blood
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / blood*
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / metabolism
  • Glyoxal / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Sugar Alcohol Dehydrogenases
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Biomarkers
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Glyoxal
  • Deoxyglucose
  • Sugar Alcohol Dehydrogenases
  • L-xylulose reductase
  • 3-deoxyglucosone