We limit our sugar intake to maintain our weight, but we may have another reason to watch what we eat. Experts now believe that a lifetime of overeating sugar can dull and wrinkle the skin.
The cause seems to be a natural process called glycation, in which sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The more sugar you consume, the more AGEs you develop. As AGEs accumulate, they harm adjacent proteins.
The most vulnerable proteins are collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic. When these resilient proteins are damaged, they become dry and brittle, which leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. These effects begin around age 35 and rapidly increase after that.
The good news is it’s never too late to turn back the clock. Here are several ways to fight the AGEs and keep skin supple and young looking:
Cut Back on Sugar
It’s hard to eliminate sugar completely, but you can limit added sugar. A good rule is to keep added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories.
Avoid Hidden Sugar
Watch out for the hidden sugar in food. It goes by many names: sucrose, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, galactose, dextrose, lactose, molasses, organic brown rice syrup, etc.
Take Vitamin Supplements
Vitamins B1 and B6 have proven to be potent AGE inhibitors. They’re both prevalent in food, but taking a multivitamin ensures you’re getting the daily value.
Wear Sunscreen Every Day
AGEs occur more significantly in exposed skin than protected skin. Wear sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and protects against UVA and UVB rays.
Increase Antioxidants Inside and Out
Antioxidants help keep sugar from attaching to proteins, so replenish their supply by eating foods like blueberries, raisins, kale, Brussels sprouts, and walnuts. Apply skin care products that contain antioxidants such as green tea, grapeseed oil, and vitamins C and E.
Protect Skin from Sugar
A growing number of skincare products contain compounds like aminoguanidine and alistin, which have shown to block the formation of AGEs. Aminoguanidine attaches to molecules that start the glycation process and prevents them from binding to collagen and elastin. Alistin acts as a decoy, so it gets damaged instead of the proteins in your skin.