SUGAR & AGEING: THE BITTERSWEET TRUTH!
Sugar………..Oh how I love thee!
Let’s face it, Sugar tastes good in all its various guises, chocolate, ice–cream, cakes, biscuits’ in fact you would be hard pressed to find almost ANY food now that does not contain sugar in some shape or form and therein lies the problem. Now that Christmas is almost upon us, it is almost a pre-requisite that we all eat as much of the stuff that we can in all its brightly foil wrapped yumm-i-ness and without guilt too! It is Christmas after all…… and while I am a firm believer of all things in moderation and I don’t want to be the Christmas Grinch…… how many of us can truly resist the sly pull of that tin of Quality Street twinkling under the Xmas tree…..
BUT there are some cold hard facts that we need to consider and we all should definitely be more mindful of the effects sugar has on our bodies and also on the bodies of the ones we love…… We know that sugar is an insidious fiend that not only creates havoc on our waistlines, but can cause uncontrolled high blood pressure, muscle, tissue and heart damage and diabetes. We all know about the damage caused by diabetes such as the connective–tissue damage and the chronic inflammation which is a result of the diabetics’ sustained high blood sugar. However, the consequences on the skin of excess sugar intake is quite profound…….Glycation. Although glycation is a natural process the majority of us probably give it way too much help…..
So consider this the next time you are looking in the mirror that one of the most visible signs of premature aging occurs in your skin, where once firm, healthy collagen strands give way to dryness, wrinkling, dullness, sagging and looseness. Of course other external factors such as sun exposure can and does contribute to external skin ageing but there is also scientific evidence that indicates another villainous offender…… Glucose or sugar driven intrinsic ageing. Sugar or Glucose is a fundamental biological fuel. However, based on the accelerated rate of aging seen in diabetics, sustained glucose exposure has long been known to affect how the body ages by a process called glycation.
Basically the science is this: when your blood system is flooded with sugar molecules they will literally besiege the cells in your body like a cell eating pac-man! These malevolent glucose molecules attack and invade, attaching themselves onto proteins and fats in a process that manifests into something called Glycation. This in turn forms ‘advanced glycation end products’, known as AGE, rather appropriately I think! So the more sugar you eat, the more you damage your collagen, the more ‘AGEs’ you develop and as these accumulate, they cause damage to the adjoining proteins and so it goes on.
Put simply, the proteins fibres, called Elastin and Collagen contained within the skin that are most prone to the effects of glycation are perversely the very ones that make a young youthful complexion so springy, plump and perfect looking. The damage takes place when these proteins connect with the rebel sugars! The cells become abnormal, debilitated, discoloured, inflexible, dry and brittle, losing their suppleness, agility and ‘springiness’. This then manifests itself on the skins surface as sagginess, wrinkles, premature aging, dullness and loss of radiance. Since Collagen and Elastin are the most extensive proteins in the body, it stands to reason that these once springy, firm and pliable proteins will under the effects of AGEs become brittle, dry and inflexible which unfortunately leads to the sagging, wrinkling, loose and aged skin.
If that wasn’t enough to make you put down that tin of roses, a high sugar diet can also effect what type of collagen you have – in other words, how resistant your skin will be to wrinkling. The skin contains 3 types of collagen, 1, 11, 111. Type 111 happens to be the most durable and resilient. Add too much sugar into the mix and you have the lovely glycation process mutating the type 111 collagen into the type 1, which wouldn’t you know it, is the most fragile! The final blow is this….. the presence of AGE not only make you look old before your time but also create free radicals, robbing your skin of precious antioxidants to fight the free radicals and leave your complexion even more vulnerable to sun damage which is still the number 1 cause of skin aging.
So, there is some food for thought, I know I won’t be eschewing sugar for ever but I will be making a conscious effort to moderate my intake, small changes can and do give you results. I guess eating less sugar is a little like giving up anything inherently bad for us, hard at first, but gets easier and then as your palate adjusts, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about!
Avoiding excess sugar will keep your skin looking fresh and youthful, for longer. We also need to remember that our bodies do need a modest supply of sugar to provide us with energy; nonetheless, our cells can only cope with so much! Therefore moderation is the sensible choice. One way to do this is to dodge all those hidden sugars present in all foods such as coffee sweeteners, pastries, breads, highly processed foods and ‘diet’ versions of yogurts and even certain probiotic drinks…..
To make these products more palatable because of the reduced fat content, the producers bump up the sugar/sweetener. These covert sugars usually end with “ose” such as maltose, fructose, glucose and dextrose. Fruit juice and especially corn syrup are very sly ways to bump up the sugar content in processed foods and fructose which happens to be the strongest glycation agent is evident in nearly every processed food.
Make it your business to arm yourself with the facts and get into the habit of checking nutrition and ingredient labels. Just remember, anything in excess is too much!
Wishing you healthy skin always,