Sugar: The Not-So-Sweet Side

Sure, sweets can be oh so tempting. Would they be so tempting if you knew they were making you age faster?

Aging is part of growing older, but sugar accelerates the process. Wrinkles and sagging skin are due in part to a process known as glycation. Sugar molecules attach to proteins in your body to form harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop.

AGEs damage adjacent proteins, some of the most vulnerable being collagen and elastin. When damaged, the once flexible and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. AGEs also deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving you more vulnerable to sun damage.

While wrinkles and sagging skin are the most visible signs of AGEs, the process is also happening inside of your body. This can result in damage to organs and processes including arterial stiffening, atherosclerosis, cancer, dementia, cataract formation, atherosclerosis, diabetic complications and more. When we refer to sugar and our diet, we aren’t referring to the naturally occurring sugars you get from say, fruit. We’re talking about added sugar. And it lurks everywhere in processed foods.

The average American consumes 94 grams of added sugar per day. The recommendation for women is no more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Men should have no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day, and for children, just 12 grams. Even if you exercise regularly and eat relatively healthy, you are not immune to the effects of added sugar on your health.

It’s never too late to turn over a new leaf. If you’re concerned about your health and not accelerating the aging process, there are steps that can help keep you healthier and looking younger.

1. Watch your processed food consumption.
Roughly 80% of processed foods have sugar. Sugar can be disguised in many forms – maldextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, maltose, and fruit juice concentrate. Concentrated fruit juice may sound like a healthy option but it’s nothing but sugar. Some sugars including honey,
maple syrup, and molasses, aren’t as refined. This may lead you to believe they are healthier, but in the end, it’s all added sugar.

Other foods such as bread, starches, potatoes, pasta, and soda rapidly convert to glucose in your bloodstream.

2. Cut back on the sweets in your diet.
Pay attention to not only limiting your sweets but also drinks that contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. The average person gets about 30 to 40% of sugar from drinks. Stick to water or unsweetened tea or coffee. If you need flavoring for your water, add fresh fruit like lime, lemon or berries. Strive to make sure your only source of sugar is from fresh fruits and vegetables. These contain great anti-inflammatory antioxidants and nutrients that help promote beautiful skin and a healthy body.

3. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily.
More AGEs occur in unprotected skin exposed to the sun than with skin protected with a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Make sure to apply an SPF of 30 or greater on a daily basis. We have many great options for broadspectrum sunscreens with our ZO Skin Health and EltaMD product lines.

4. Take B1 and B6 dietary supplements of at least 1 mg daily.
Published studies show these two vitamins are potent AGE inhibitors. B1 and B6 are plentiful in food, but taking a multivitamin ensures you’re getting the daily value of 1.1 mg for B1 and 1.3 mg for B6 (1.5 mg after age 50).

5. Fall in love with antioxidants.
Antioxidants are great warriors against aging as they help keep sugar from attaching to healthy proteins. So employ the inside-out approach to antioxidants. Eat foods rich in antioxidants like blueberries, cranberries, walnuts, and red bell peppers. Apply topical antioxidants such as green tea and vitamins C and E. This is a great way to have nutrients reach the dermal layer of skin. Ask us about the ZO Skin Health products that contain antioxidants.

6. Build new collagen with products and treatments.
You can boost collagen by using retinol-based skincare products. We have the ZO Skin Health line of products which includes several great retinol options. You can also encourage new collagen formation through in-office treatments like the Venus Viva.

To learn more about Venus Viva, click here.

While avoiding sugar can sometimes be a difficult change to make, it’s one that will result in great benefits for you and your skin.