Sugar is in spot light as a leading cause of aging. The first time I got a premonition that some negative energy was gathering around sweet things in life when reading a German issue of Elle for November 2007. The statement that sugar “gets converted into Glucose in the blood that attacks collagen fibers” caught my attention. I just could picture my collagen fibers under attack and felt very curious about what exactly is the physiological process referred to in the article. However, I did not start to look into it till when a couple days later I saw a headline on the cover of a Harper’s Bazar November British issue reading: “WHY SUGAR IS YOUR SKIN’S WORST ENEMY”. Then, I knew I was in for a piece of bitter-sweet news.
It appears that when we eat sugar-containing products as well a simple carbohydrates, sugar turns into glucose in our blood and binds with protein or lipid molecules. This binding process is called glycation. As we know, collagen and elastin are the proteins in our skin vitally important for having wrinkle-free, elastic, young looking complexion. As a result of glycation skin becomes stiff and loses its elasticity which leads to the formation of wrinkles. In addition to this as Dr.Maes, Vice-President of global research and development for Estée Lauder, explains “Glycation impairs the body’s ability to produce and utilise antioxidants.” ( see article by Notebook Magazine)As a result we become more vulnerable to the damage from free-radicals.
Many other well-known skin experts and dermatologists have expressed their concerns about sugars in our diets and the glycation as a process extremely damaging to our skin including Dr.Perricone, expert on facial rejuvenation and author of “The Wrinkle Cure”, and Dr.Brandt, New York Dermatologist and Author of “Age-Less”. (You can see their opinions quoted at the end of the post)
Let’s Not Go to Extremes
Glycation does not mean that we should exclude all sugar containing products and all the carbohydrates from our diet. In fact, our body does need sugar for normal function. Besides, our body is very smart and has a way to control the level of sugar by means of insulin. Where the danger lies is in a rapid peaking of blood sugar level when we eat simple sugars (like sweets, chocolates) or simple carbohydrates (like potatoes, bread) that quickly get converted to glucose in our blood. Because of the rapid increase of blood sugar level, our body does not have enough time to react to the and balance it. That is when the damage happens.
1. Do not indulge into simple sugars and carbohydrates like cakes, chocolates, potatoes, pasta, bread etc.
2. Watch out for hidden sugars
Dr.Maes stresses that “It’s the hidden sugars” that we should watch out for in our diets as “These add up, giving us an excess of sugar, and that’s where the damage starts.” Those hiding sugars are especially dangerous and hard to control as we don’t even realize that we are consuming them. They can be found in very unexpected products: low fat foods, cereals, yoghurt, processed meats etc. (British Issue of Harper’s Bazar, November 2007)
3. Learn to read the label
First of all, it is helpful to know various names the sugars are hiding behind. The ending –ose (as in fructose, glucose) is a good hint.
In addition here is a list from Harper’s Bazar:
glucose, glucose syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, invert sugar, treacle, golden syrup.
It is also recommended to become “GI-Aware” – the less GI the better. GI stands for Glucaemic Index and shows how quickly certain foods get converted into sugar in the blood. GI's of 50-55 or below are considered low, and 70 or above are considered high.
4. If you are a sugar junkie
You must be quite upset by now. Coming to your rescue: Dr.Perricone recommends a way to get out of the loop of rising and falling sugar blood level and rising and falling along with it moods. You need to get your sugar blood level under control and just for a couple days “stay away from bad carbohydrates and eat more protein”. As soon as your blood sugar stabilizes you will feel free from those cravings and will be able to control sugars in your diet. Interview to Health and Beauty
How to fight the damage?
1. Remember about anti-oxidant protection such as vitamin supplements
2. Counteract the damage by using topical antioxidants
There is a big selection of antioxidant serums and moisturizers on the market nowadays so you won’t have a problem finding one. In addition, Dr.Brandt came up with “Lineless Anti-Glycation Serum” in response to the sugar danger – “a powerful serum targeting collagen and elastin to prevent and minimize the effects of glycation”. (More about this product at Dr.Brandt Skin Care
In some press reviews it has been mistakenly ascribed the power to completely “prevent glycation”. Which is impossible taking into consideration that glycation is a chemical reaction in our body that cannot be controlled topically.
What Experts Say:
Quotes on Glycation
What Dr.Perricone, an expert on facial rejuvenation and best-selling author of The Wrinkle Cure and The Perricone Prescription, says about sugar in his Interview to Health and Beauty
“I believe that inflammation is at the basis of aging in all organ systems, including the skin. One of the reasons inflammation occurs is from a rapid rise in blood sugar, which causes biochemical changes in the cell that result in accelerated aging”…. “Of the internal causes of inflammation, one of the big ones is diet. In addition to biochemical changes, sugar causes damage to the skin in another way: When blood sugar goes up rapidly, sugar can attach itself to collagen in a process called "glycation," making the skin stiff and inflexible. Losing this elastic resilience of young skin will give you deep wrinkles and make you look old.”
What Dr.Maes, vice president of global research and development for Estée Lauder is quoted to say about sugar in an article by Notebook Magazine
"We’ve all heard the saying ‘You are what you eat’. Now we believe ‘You age as you eat’"
"Glycation impairs the body’s ability to produce and utilise antioxidants”… “The effect on the skin is the deterioration of collagen and elastin, which ages the complexion."
And talking to Harper’s Bazar (British Issue for November 2007) Dr.Maes says:
"We now know that between 40 and 50% of skin ageing is cause by glycation - the damage directly resulted from eating sugar. It’s one of the worst skin agers; more than sun, more than the environment."