What does glycosylation do to your body?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Glycosylation means when sugar chemically attaches to proteins in different cells in the body. Depending on where glycosylation occurs, it can have a variety of effects on your body, such as…
  1. In the blood: Normally, you have a very tight junction between the endothelial cells in your arterial wall, so that, like a happily married couple, nothing can get between them. But glycosylation weakens that junction between cells and makes them leaky and vulnerable to tears. The body repairs those tears by plugging them with cholesterol, which causes plaque in your arterial walls.
  2. In the lens of the eye: When glucose attaches to proteins in the lens of the eye, it changes the lens cells from crystal clear to a little cloudy. A lot of that cloudiness leads to vision impairment that we call cataract formation. When glycosylation occurs in the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye, they become fragile and leaky, and bleeding can occur in a condition called diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness.
  3. In the skin: With the glycosylation of collagen, the collagen in your skin becomes less elastic and stiffer than a happy-hour martini. In your connective tissues: When glucose attaches to collagen in your connective tissues, you end up with less elasticity. You need collagen for the smooth functioning of joints. High blood sugar magnifies all aches and pains and can lead to impaired joint movement—and eventually arthritis.
  4. In your lungs: The glycosylation of collagen results in abnormal recoil of the elastic tissue, so you have trouble getting the air out as well as in. This occurs slowly in lung connective tissue, but 40 years of high glucose levels often lead to respiratory failure—the inability to get enough oxygen into your blood without the use of an oxygen tank.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.