By now most of us are aware about the dangers of eating too much sugar. From an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, the list is long and frightening, but can seemingly feel distant at the same time. Interestingly, it is sometimes the vain outcomes that really hammer home a message. Add wrinkles to that list and our ears suddenly perk up. Sugar causes wrinkles too?!
Yes, sugar contributes to wrinkles.
Through a process called glycation, sugar molecules attach to proteins in the body, forming Advanced Glycation End Products (appropriately shortened to AGEs). These AGEs stiffen and distort protein fibers.
The proteins in the skin responsible for a youthful complexion – elastin and collagen – are most vulnerable to glycation. When sugar attaches to these proteins, they become weak, discoloured and less elastic. This eventually results in wrinkles. AGEs also make the skin more vulnerable to UV light and cigarette smoke.
When we are younger, the body produces more collagen and is armed with more resources to fight AGEs. As we age, a build- up of environmental damage, hormonal changes and AGEs begins to take its toll, surfacing as wrinkles around age 30-35.
Refined sugars are not the only agent at fault. In fact, all sugars, including those from complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits and veggies, contribute to glycation. We cannot eliminate all sugars from our diet – glucose (the basic unit of sugar) is essential for metabolism and found in many essential foods – but we can eliminate the ones that cause the most damage. Refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup have been found to increase the rate of glycation 10 timescompared to complex carbs.
While glycation may be a fact of life, we do not have to surrender just yet. Below is a list of dietary and lifestyle changes that may slow down the process of glycation:
• Green tea has been shown to increase collagen synthesis – which can replace old glycated collagen. Drink up and look for skin care products containing green tea.
• Antioxidants such as vitamin C and E are also important for fighting glycation. Be sure to include plenty of antioxidant rich foods such as citrus fruits, berries, almonds and avocados in your diet.
• Sun protection. Protect yourself from dangerous UV rays by applying sunscreen and wearing hats.
• Anti-aging skin creams that contain “AGE-fighters” are also available.
And remember not to stress about it! While we can follow a healthy diet and lifestyle to slow the development of wrinkles, they are an inevitable part of life. And they are beautiful in their own right, showing years of experience, wisdom and laughs!