Sugar Could Be Causing You to Age Before Your Time

by kellylavieri on February 26, 2016

Sugar Could Be Causing You to Age Before Your Time

Sugar is probably one of the most demonized foods out there, and one more sin to add to its list is aging. Almost any wellness expert is more than happy to explain in great detail why it’s bad for you, but they often focus on the effect eating sweets can have on your waistline or energy levels. You might not be aware that sugar can be a major player in visible aging, especially for women. With extensive research into the multiple effects of sugar on the body, experts now believe that eating too many sweets can leave skin dull and wrinkled. Could fighting your sweet tooth be even more effective than expensive anti-aging creams and treatments?

How sugar makes us look older 

Aging can be caused by a natural process that’s known as glycation, in which the sugar you consume attaches to fats and proteins in your bloodstream, forming harmful new molecules called “advanced glycation end-products” (AGEs for short — how sadly appropriate for those of us who are middle-aged or older!). These proteins damage nearby proteins in your body, leading to a domino-effect which harms the skin. The more sugar in your regular diet, the more AGEs your body creates, and the more skin damage you experience, leading to faster visible aging.

Doubling up on causes of aging 

Besides damaging the collagen in your skin, eating excess sugar can also affect the type of collagen being produced — another factor which determines how resistant your skin is to wrinkles. Skin is primarily filled with collagen types I, II, and III. The most stable and longest lasting form is type III. The main issue is that glycation can turn type III collagen into type I, which is much more fragile. This breakdown of stable collagens into weaker ones causes skin to both appear and feel less supple and young.

Worst of all? AGEs can deactivate natural antioxidant enzymes found in your body. These enzymes are normally what protect us from harmful compounds and other forms of cellular damage. Once deactivated, you are no longer as protected from sun damage, known to be the main cause of visible skin aging. Sugar also makes it more difficult for your body to repair this damage. Worse yet, it isn’t just visible aging you have to be concerned about; sun damaged skin is also more likely to develop cancerous cells.

What you can do about it 

You can protect and moisturize your skin using external products like creams, but you also need to encourage the growth of strong, healthy skin cells from within. Sugar will sabotage that, regardless of your weight or fitness level. Of course, how much sugar you can consume before glycation occurs does depend on your age, metabolism, and how much you exercise. So as we get older, especially if we’re more sedentary, we can consume less sugar before we trip the glycation response.

Obviously, the most important way to combat sugar-caused skin aging is to cut it out of your diet. Drink your coffee or tea black, don’t splurge on sugary sweets, and avoid refined carbohydrates like those found in cakes, cookies, and white bread. However, it’s not enough to just get rid of pure sugar added to your foods. Anything you eat which has a high glycemic index (meaning it gets broken down into sugars quickly by your body) will cause a spike in blood glucose. This has the same effect as consuming pure sugar. Choosing low GI foods can be helpful in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Sugary foods like fruits should make up less than 10% of your daily food intake.

Avoiding Added Sugars

Unfortunately for us, sugar can sneak into lots of unexpected food items. Just read the ingredient list on any condiment, prepared food, or canned goods in your kitchen — I guarantee that you’ll find it on at least half of them, even in foods which don’t taste sweet. Your “health foods” aren’t an exception to this rule, either. Plenty of pre-prepared vegan or gluten-free food options contain alternative sugar sources such as agave or brown rice syrup.

Added sugars can hide behind numerous different names. The infographic included in this post shows a whopping 46 of them! That’s an awful lot of names to try and remember while shopping, and that’s the point. Sugar is tasty, and we naturally crave it, so food manufacturers will continue adding it to the foods we buy. The only way to avoid added sugars completely is to be very careful when reading labels or to consume primarily whole foods cooked at home.

Although older women do have to watch their sugar consumption to avoid causing themselves to age more rapidly, there is good news. If you alter your habits and reduce the sugar in your diet, you should see benefits on a short time-scale. Even a few days or weeks can improve the level of dryness, though the most benefits accrue over the long term. Also, the occasional treat here and there is unlikely to really harm you. Just try to satisfy your sweet tooth with a few pieces of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, which has been proven to have many health benefits which will easily counteract the minor level of sugar it contains.

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