Ageing Gracefully – Is There a Link Between Sugar and Ageing?
Does sugar really cause wrinkles and ageing? Yes it does! Is alcohol really a sugar? Yes it is!
Ageing gracefully can be as simple as reducing the amount of sugar in your diet.
These are questions I am frequently asked during nutritional consultations and speaking engagements. Our skin and our ageing process is one of the key concerns of men and women across Australia. The Australian skin cosmetic industry earned a whopping 370 million dollars this past year. Aren’t we silly that we spend so much money on facials, creams and beauty treatments only to discover that we can reduce our wrinkles simply by consuming less sugar?
How Is This Possible?
When we consume sugar and carbohydrates (particularly simple carbohydrates) our bodies break it down into a process known as ‘glycation’. This is where the sugar attaches to particular proteins that form harmful molecules known as AGES – advanced glycation end products. A diet high in sugars, which are often hidden sugars, can produce lot of AGES leading to lots of AGEING. These AGES damage our collagen and elastin in our skin as they are the most susceptible to the damage of AGES. Unfortunately when our collagen and elastin become damaged, our skin loses it elasticity and wrinkles begin to form. Glycation even goes further onto damaging the collagen by turning type III collagen to type I collagen.
What Does This All Mean?
Type III collagen is our more robust, longer lasting collagen and our Type I is our weaker collagen. Antioxidants are also at risk of the glycation process. Antioxidants which protect our bodies from free, harmful radicals are reduced from glycation. A reduction of our protective antioxidants makes our skin more susceptible to sun damage and the already harmful effects of smoking.
So Where Are The Hidden Sugars?
If you are thinking this all makes sense and you want to give this a go for 4 weeks to see if you feel better and your skin texture improves, then let’s have a look where you can reduce sugar in your diet.
It is not the obvious sugars but the hidden sugars in things like bread, pasta, muesli, tropical fruit, alcohol and wine. Become a reader of the nutritional panels! You will be so surprised to see that some of our ‘healthy bars’ contain more than 15 grams of sugar in one small bar. Some yogurts with fruit, which often have the misconception of being ‘uber’ healthy, contain 28 grams of sugar in one serve… yikes that is 7 teaspoons of sugar!
When you are reading labels, one of the easy steps I teach my patients is have a look at the grams of sugar, divide it by four and that equals the number of teaspoons of sugar in that food item. For example, a ginger beer has 48.6 grams of sugar, which means 12.1 teaspoons of sugar.
Choose low GI, complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates: brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, etc. All carbs break down to sugar but low GI are lower in sugar. Whist honey, agave and molasses are natural they still are sugar so beware! Chose high protein snacks such as yogurts, nuts and seeds over sugary snacks.
So there is no secret formula to ageing gracefully. Just reduce the amount of sugar in your diet and not only will you look better, you will feel healthier too.