I get really excited at the start of a new year because I LOVE setting goals. This year I’m trying something to improve the health of my skin, which is why my big goal for 2017 is to cut back on sugar.
Did you know that after smoking and sun damage, sugar is the leading cause of skin aging? Simply put, sugar=wrinkles.
When there is too much sugar in the body, sugar will attach itself to proteins, producing harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products, aptly nicknamed AGEs.
AGEs particularly affect collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, and elastin. Collagen and elastin are the building blocks of our skin, giving it firmness and flexibility.
When sugar molecules attach to collagen and elastin fibers to form AGEs, these proteins become stiff and bent out of shape, causing your skin to look and feel less supple.
The effects of AGEs on the skin include a loss of elasticity, stiffness, wrinkling, decreased blood circulation, a redistribution of fat, loss of facial volume, unattractive fat pockets, and tumors.
AGEs also transform type III collagen, the most stable and long-lasting, into type I collagen which is much more fragile.
The body ultimately converts all food into glucose, a simple sugar. To control the formation of AGEs, it is important to understand how fast a particular food is converted into glucose.
Foods with a high glycemic index (which means they cause high blood sugar levels) such as granulated sugar, candy, soda, pasta, white bread and white rice, are converted into glucose rapidly, causing a blood sugar spike.
Blood sugar spikes cause sugar to flood into the bloodstream, leading to the formation of AGEs. Diabetics, who have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels, have been found to have as many as 50 times more AGEs in their skin than people who don’t have the disease.
If you want to minimize skin aging and the formation of AGEs, limit your intake of added sugar. Added sugar is listed on nutrition labels in grams. To figure out the number of added sugar in teaspoons, divide the total number of grams by 5. For example, a 12 oz can of coca cola contains 39 grams of sugar, or almost eight teaspoons.
Eating low glycemic index foods helps to keep the skin looking healthy and young. The body converts low glycemic index foods like nuts, seeds, lean meats, healthy grains, and most veggies into sugar slowly, gradually releasing sugar into the bloodstream, avoiding blood sugar spikes and the formation of AGEs.
Fat and protein slow down the release of glucose which is helpful when you are eating foods with a high glycemic index. Adding milk to your cereal, chicken to your pasta, and eating a handful of almonds with your candy will help fight the formation of AGEs.
High fructose corn syrup is one of the worst foods in terms of premature skin aging. High fructose corn syrup is believed to produce as many as 7 times more AGEs than any other type of sugar.
To help stabilize blood sugars and in effect, decrease the formation of AGEs, eat every 3 to 4 hours, maintain a healthy weight, and pump iron because the more muscle you have, the more sugar your body can safely handle.
Studies have also found that vitamins B1 and B6 help to inhibit the formation of AGEs. The daily recommended value of vitamin B1 is 1.1 mg and vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg (1.5 mg after the age of 50).
So next time I’m tempted by that extra cookie or slice of cheesecake, I will just picture the damage I could be causing my skin. While I’m not going to rule sugar out of my life completely, the possibility of accelerating skin aging will make it a lot easier to ignore my sweet tooth!
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