So we all know that really excessive exposure to the sun and its UV rays causes premature skin aging; but what about overexposure to sugar? Did you know that excess sugar causes just as much damage, if not more?
Now, I know for a fact that sugar scrubs make my skin look beautiful and glowing - I make myself a new batch every couple of weeks. But what I am talking about here is the consumption of too much sugar.
When digested, sugar triggers a process called glycation. It happens when the sugar we eat - quickly transforms into blood glucose for energy - attaches to proteins, forming harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products, also rather tellingly known as AGEs.
The more sugar we eat, the more AGEs develop.
Proteins and amino acids serve critical functions in our bodies such as cell repair, transport and storage of nutrients and supporting organ health. However they need to be free agents to do their jobs, and when sugar attaches to a protein, this causes the protein to become sticky and bind to other proteins. This in turn affects the functioning of protein in the body.
The proteins that sugar is most attracted to are collagen and elastin - the two protein fibers that keep skin looking firm and elastic, so it bounces back rather than sags.
AGEs not only makes collagen more fragile and less able to keep skin looking good; they also damage the body’s ability to generate antioxidants, leaving skin more vulnerable to further damage. This results in a structural weakness in the skin that leads to wrinkles and fine lines.
Some glycation is normal, of course, but given the amounts of sugar we eat these days - according to Forbes magazine, Americans eat on average 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, almost two and a half times the 9.5 teaspoons per day recommended by the American Heart Association - we are speeding up this aging process without even realising it!
Refined white sugar and the equally problematic corn syrup - both high in fructose - are the biggest culprits because they are processed quickly, causing blood sugar levels to spike. With high blood sugar levels come high levels of AGEs. On the other hand, foods that are broken down slower by the body such as whole grains and fiber-rich fruits lead to lower blood sugar levels, and fewer AGEs.
There is also a compound known as carnosine - a protein building block that is naturally produced in the body - that can neutralize AGEs, acting much in the same way an antioxidant fights a free radical.
Essentially, it may slow the aging process, which is why we include L-Carnosine it in our Total Balance formulas. So the good news is... we can slow this process and care for our skin by firstly, watching what we put into our body.
How much sugar are you and your family eating each day? Have a close look into your pantry and fridge – let’s face off against this sweet enemy together.
In good health.