maillard reaction is the nonenzymatic browning that occurs in foods and living organisms. the objective of this review is to analyze the formation and role of maillard reaction products and their effects on human health. a literature search was done in the relevant databases for all articles published on the subject. the results of the review show that intermediate carbonyl compounds of the maillard reaction and peroxidation easily react with the amino groups of proteins and nucleic acids leading to biological changes that can, in turn, lead to complications, such as those seen in diabetes, atherosclerosis and degenerative diseases. consumption of maillard reaction products increased in the last decades because of the increased consumption of processed foods, since the production of many processed foods may require the use of heat. these substances are bioavailable to some degree and, although there is no consensus about their harmful effects on human health, the scientific community has expressed concern with their implications on the pathological processes of which they are part. these findings suggest that the intake of these substances, especially by vulnerable individuals, such as children and diabetics, should be estimated for the establishment of acceptable daily intakes, if necessary. more knowledge about these substances may also result in the establishment of a maximum mrp level in processed foods.