It is no secret that excess sugar consumption can lead to health issues. But did you know that it is also a major contributing factor to aging - including premature aging of the skin - by a process called "glycation?"
What is glycation? Well, when there is too much sugar in the body, protein molecules can cross-link with sugar molecules, creating new sugar proteins (also called AGE's, ironically) that the body does not recognize. This process produces antibodies that cause inflammation in the body, resulting in accelerating the aging process. This is a very simplified description of the process, but is basically what is happening with the sugar swirling around inside you.
How does this make us wrinkly? The inflammation created by the glycation process causes inflammation in our skin. In fact, AGEs tend to affect dermal collagen and elastin, specifically - the stuff that keeps our skin youthful, supple and resilient. This results in wrinkles, skin sagging, premature aging and can also compromise skin's barrier function that regulates moisture and hydration.
And the crazy part? It doesn't matter if it is refined sugars (like donuts and pastries) or natural sugars (like agave and honey). Glycation occurs when there is an excess of any sugars - the body doesn't discriminate.
Such a bummer.
So what can we do to minimize this process? Here are a few general tips:
- Omit refined foods, simple carbs, alcohol and sugar as an ingredient from your diet, to minimize the amount of sugar in your body. Many foods (like simple carbs) turn into sugar in your body after you eat them, even though they may not be sweet.
- Use natural sugars, like honey and agave as needed, but sparingly.
- Use stevia - a naturally sweet plant that is readily available now at your grocery - in beverages, baking and cooking. It does not cause the same response as sugar in the body and is a great alternative to artificial, sugar-free options that do scary things to the body. Here is a great post from Mountain Rose Herbs on making your own stevia extracts at home to flavor your foods.
- Look for skin care ingredients that are anti-inflammatory and calm and soothe the skin when applied, such as licorice root, aloe, jojoba, honey, seaweed, chamomile, green tea and oats.
- Strive to include antioxidant rich foods in your diet, such as blueberries, nuts and dark, leafy greens. These antioxidants in the diet help to fight the aging process.
- Get your Omega Fatty Acids with foods such as salmon and walnuts. The Omega Fatty Acids have also been shown to help to minimize inflammation in the body.
- Follow a generally healthy lifestyle with plenty of rest, exercise, fresh air and love.
There are, of course, a myriad of things that contribute to premature aging - pollution, lifestyle, genetics - but minimizing sugar in your diet is one way to surely help support the health of your skin. And healthy, happy skin - our own best skin - is what it is all about. Not the airbrushed version of what we think things should look like.
On that note, one thing I would like to add, to finish this post, is that each of our faces tells a story. It carries memories of our years in our body - life's joys, sorrows and dreams.
Every line and every crease is a part of you that makes you unique. With a society so obsessed with youth and aging, let's all take a moment to just look at ourselves in the mirror and love what we see. Touch those creases and remember all of the times you smiled at your child or pet. Remember the difficult times that you triumphed over. Remember all of the love and magic and good in the world that face has seen.
You are so beautiful. <3