Sugar is Harmful to the Skin: Ways to Fight Glycation

Sugar not only damages your liver, your heart, and contributes to obesity but now experts believe that a lifetime of overeating sugar can also make skin dull, wrinkled and cause sagging.

At blame is a natural process that's known as glycation, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products(or AGEs for short).

The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. 

"As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion," explains Fredric Brandt, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Miami and New York City and author of 10 Minutes 10 Years. Most vulnerable to damage: collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic. In fact, collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These aging effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Probably the worst consequence of glycation is cross-linking, which is the formation of chemical bridges between proteins or other large molecules. A material that undergoes cross-linking usually becomes harder, less elastic and has a tendency to tear or crack. Cross-linking is responsible for hardening of a rubber mat or a garden hose left in the sun. In the aging body, cross-linking contributes to hardening of arteries, wrinkling of the skin and stiffening of joints.

Besides damaging collagen, a high-sugar diet also affects what type of collagen you have-another factor in how resistant skin is to wrinkling, says Brandt. The most abundant collagens in the skin are types I, II, and III, with type III being the most stable and longest lasting. Glycation transforms type III collagen into type I, which is more fragile. "When that happens, the skin looks and feels less supple," says Brandt. The final blow: AGEs deactivate your body's natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving you more vulnerable to sun damage-still the main cause of skin aging.

One group that knows all too well sugar's ravaging effects: people with diabetes
, who-because they can suffer from years of undetected high blood sugar-often show early signs of skin aging. Depending on how well their disease is controlled, diabetics can have up to 50 times the number of AGEs in their skin as those who don't have diabetes.

Ways To Fight Glycation

ELIMINATE SUGAR FROM YOUR DIET It's not easy to eliminate sugar completely. Even whole grains, fruits, and vegetables turn to glucose-the type of sugar that fuels glycation-when digested. But limiting added sugar can help. Some guidelines: Watch for hidden sugar in food. Many prepared foods contain hefty amounts of sugar-but it's hidden under aliases-including barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, and turbinado-on ingredient panels.

L-CARNOSINE In animal studies, this nutrient has been shown to inhibit cross-linking. In particular, carnosine inhibits the protein-protein and DNA-protein cross-linking induced by various aldehydes, including glucose. Whether long-term carnosine supplementation has longevity benefits in humans remains to be determined.

BENFOTIAMINE (a fat-soluble form of vitamin B1)and Pyridoxamine (a form of vitamin B6) show promise as inhibitors of certain pathways of glycation and cross-linking. Garlics and onions contain B1.

WEAR BROAD SPECTRUM SPF 30 SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY Significantly more AGEs occur in sun-exposed skin than in protected skin, according to the British Journal of Dermatology study. Therefore use sunscreen everyday, but do make sure to get some sun exposure for vitamin D production.

EAT A LOW GLYCEMIC DIET High glycemic diets raise the blood sugar too quickly and consequently contributes to aging. A little about glycemic index and load
hereSome high glycemic foods are: white bread, puffed cereals, pineapple, raisins, brown rice, among others.

ANTIOXIDANTS These free-radical fighters help keep sugar from attaching to proteins, so replenishing their supply-both by eating more antioxidant-rich fruits, nuts, and vegetables, such as cranberries, walnuts, and red bell peppers, and by using topical antioxidants such as green tea and vitamins C and E-is a real skin saver.

 Have been 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.

GINGER, CINNAMON, CLOVE, CUMIN In a recent study by M. Saraswat, et al., water extracts of seventeen herbs used in diabetes treatment were tested for their ability to inhibit AGE formation in laboratory experiments. Extracts of ginger, clove, cinnamon and cumin were found to be the most effective

YERBA MATE is a potent AGE inhibitor. More powerful than green tea.

CHROMIUM Reduces glycation by 60%. It is estimated that 90% of American diets are lacking in sufficient chromium.

CHLORELLA may have advanced glycation end product inhibitory activity. Read more here

AGE CONTENT IN COMMON FOODS -scroll all the way down.

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