DOES SUGAR REALLY SPEED UP THE AGEING PROCESS?
Yes! High intakes of refined sugar has been linked to accelerated skin ageing.
How does sugar age your skin?
It is called Glycation. The sugar reacts with protein creating advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These substances (AGEs) cause skin to be wrinkled and cell structures to harden. Think of the Glycation process as an action similar to an onion caramelising at a high temperature. The collagen and elastin fibres stiffens and immobilises causing the skin to lose elasticity and resilience. The Glycation protein stored in the dermis leads to inflammation and dehydration. Wrinkles caused by Glycation are extremely visible. They appear as cross hatching and complex in comparison to expression lines, which only follow horizontal direction.
Are some sugars worse for you than others?
When sugar is contained naturally within food, such as in fruit, you're also usually taking in a lot of fibre, which slows the digestion of the sugar and causes less of an impact on blood sugar. Refined sugars are where the problems are.
Is it ever too late to make a difference to your skin?
I would always say it is never too late for lifestyle changes. While sugar speeds up ageing, adopting healthier habits will in turn start to slow this process, whatever your age. Our bodies are really adaptable in that way.
Are there any foods that help to counteract the effects of excess sugar?
Yes, the thinking now is that we should eat a rainbow. It's the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables that protect us from free radical damage. Our bodies are oxidising all the time - it is like we are rusting! In different colours of fruit and vegetables you'll find different antioxidants. For example, beta-carotene in carrots, lycopene in tomatoes - the more variety we have across both fruit and veg, the more protection we provide our bodies.
How does sugar impact the body?
We have to think of sugar as being empty calories with no nutritional value. As well as the increased risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes, eating too much refined sugar creates more inflammation in the body which can increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.
How to reduce the effects of sugar on your skin?
Whilst I am not suggesting to cut out sugar completely, it is advisable to look at your sugar intake. Added sugars should make up no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
Know how much sugar per day you are having. Read food labels and make healthier choices when buying processed foods. Often supermarket brands operate a traffic light labelling policy to help steer you to make healthier choices.
Know your sugars - honey, fruit juices and alcohol all contain high amounts of sugar.
Drink water - replace fizzy drinks, juice and energy drinks with water and be aware that flavoured waters often include hidden additional ingredients.
Get your beauty sleep - scientists have found that the sleep hormone melatonin can reduce glycation damage by up to 50%.
Relax and unwind - stress causes spikes in the level of the hormone cortisol, which increases the effects of glycation by up to 20%.