Hi, dear friends!

Recently we’ve talked about proteins, their nutrition value and influence on health and weight. Today it’s planned to discuss an interesting well-known to everybody protein chemical reaction between sugars such as glucose or fructose and amino acids.



As the result of this process food becomes brown and has its delicious flavor. You can smell delightful flavor and see nice brown top on most roasted, fried, stone baked, flamed, and seared foods. This reaction was known since ancient times. However, only 100 years ago it was scientifically discovered, described and called a Maillard reaction.

Actually, you can see it very often in modern world. All what’s needed is a high temperature cooking method, but not boiling.  For example, Maillard reactions occurs on smoked meat and fish, bacon, grilled and fried cheese, fish and meat,  bagels, croissants, rolls, bread, roasted nuts and seeds, cereal , pop corn, butter, dried fruits, beverages, soy sauce, roasted coffee beans, etc.

As a chef on Etnocook Ukrainian traditional cuisine with ten years of experience, dietitian consultant and nutritionist, I strongly recommend you pay attention to this topic. Food is medicine, but not all the times. As the result of the reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids are produced compounds AGEs (advanced glycation end products). AGEs are connected to causing chronic diseases.

Keep in mind, that not only junk food is full with AGEs. Favorite of many pizza and lazanya are made of baking dough and cheese, which proteins make the Maillard reaction. Also, everything, that has oil on top, becomes toxic in high temperatures, when oil starts to break down and form toxic gas acroneil, that is bad for eyes, but can also go inside the dish and badly affect the human who eats it.

This article is about a process that we all know as golden browning on the top of fried, roasted or grilled food. Instinctively we like this kind of dishes, their look and delicious smell. Why is it so? Scientists call it the Maillard reaction and it was discovered a hundred of years ago.


The most common version is that we like deeply grilled fragrant crust instinctively. The Maillard reaction that occurs in top layers of the dishes is not only about the color, but also about the delicious smell that stimulates the appetite.

Million years ago, when people only invented cooking, they consumed a lot of raw foods. And there were a lot of risks because uncooked products could be spoiled and act like poison. Besides, raw foods are not easy to digest. As there were not so many cooking methods, roasting meat and vegetables in open fire was the most popular way to get them done. Those primitive dishes were better for human health than uncooked, especially meat.

So evolutionary we all have this ancient memory that sends us signals that fragrant crust is tasty.  Golden brown look and delightful flavor whet the appetite when we only imagine it!


In fact, Maillard reaction is not the one reaction. It’s a group of reactions. They are initiated by simple condensation of an amine with a carbonyl group with a reducing sugar (or it can be fat breakdown product). A wide range of compounds are generated. For example, from  reactive intermediates, α-dicarbonyl compounds and deoxysones are produced in polymerised brown pigments melanoidins, etc



There are a lot of studies, that everyday consuming of roasted and fried with high temperatures foods associates with a lot of different diseases. Maillard reaction compounds, AGEs, can influence the development of complications that are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bad wound healing, atherosclerosis. Too high temperatures provoke the appearance of carcinogenic compounds that can lead to cancer. AGEs in human body can speed up obesity, eye disease, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and a lot of others, including insomnia



How to prevent the damage from the Maillard reaction? First of all, avoid all those open-ended high temperature cooked for short  time foods. Choose more light ways to prepare dishes, and make your products more tender, even if it takes more time on lower temperatures. Cut off from your diet most of the processed food and don’t eat AGE-high products on regular basis.

Include in your meal-plan a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, and so called AGEs breakers, that inhibit and even block AGE formation. Among them are mint, bay leaf, pepper, green tea, red grape, garlic, shallot, barberry, turmeric, green buckwheat, and others.

By the way, making changes in everyday lifestyle helps a lot! Be sure you are hydrated well, don’t smoke and protect your skin from sun exposure. Remember to work out regularly and get active.



Articles and researches:

  • Maillard reaction wikipedia
  • The Maillard Reaction Reconsidered: Cooking and Eating for Health
  • За Jack N. Losso
  • Fayle and Gerrard 2002, Friedman 1996a.
  • Control of Maillard Reactions in Foods: Strategies and ChemicalMechanisms https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b00882