We’ve all heard that sugar is the enemy when it comes to diet, and that milk chocolate bars and choc chip cookies can cause our weight to creep up unexpectedly and our energy levels to spike and fall dramatically. But did you know that sugar also causes wrinkles and premature ageing and that cutting it out can make you look years younger?
Scientifically, what happens to our skin when we eat refined sugar is a process called glycation; protein or lipids haphazardly bond with renegade sugars and form non-functioning structures in the body called Advanced Glycation End products (which is rather appropriately shortened to AGEs).
The proteins in our skin which are most prone to glycation are collagen and elastin – which are the duo that act as a mesh under our skin’s surface and make our faces plump and springy.
When these proteins link up with renegade sugars, they become discoloured, weak and less supple, stiff and malformed. And, when our collagen and elastin become damaged, that shows up externally in the form of wrinkles, dull, saggy skin and a distinct lack of glow. Glycation also depletes the skin of its natural moisturiser, hyaluronic acid, which causes dry skin – another characteristic of ageing.
Externally; glycation tends to become visible in our late twenties, or early thirties – depending on lifestyle. Add in accumulative sun damage from tanning over the years, environmental oxidative stress, hormonal changes, and the development of AGEs, this results in premature ageing with wrinkles and thinner skin around your neck, décolletage and face.
Drinking green tea can help interfere with the glycation process while stimulating collagen synthesis. And, external skin products containing green tea can also help. A diet which is rich in Vitamin C is worth considering as it is said to help destroy the free radicals that can age you prematurely.
Foods which are rich in vitamin C include kiwi fruit, papaya, red bell peppers, broccoli, and kale. Blueberries are packed with anthocyanins, which give them their rich, dark colour, and help stabilise the collagen matrix as well as improving circulation in tiny facial capillaries. Blueberries are anti-inflammatory and packed with antioxidants that help stop skin damage created by glycation.
Unfortunately for the sugar and chocolate lovers amongst us, cutting back on refined sugar is also going to make a huge difference to your skin. Experts suggest scaling back intake of white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup – which studies have shown increases the rate of glycation by ten times, compared with glucose — and simple carbs.
We do need some sugar to function as it provides an essential fuel for cells and energy metabolism. Fruit, vegetables and whole-grains turn to glucose when consumed, but in a less damaging way than refined sugar.
Good carbs like whole-grains and brown rice produce less glucose and more slowly than refined sugar, so your body is given a gentle source of energy over a longer period of time, and without spiking and then crashing – resulting in irritability, tiredness and mood swings.