As we get older, many of us turn our thoughts to beating the signs of ageing, namely, wrinkles. There have been many theories on how we can prevent the advancement of wrinkles over the years but the most recent to come to the forefront may surprise you. It is something we come into contact with almost every day and could be more responsible for ageing skin than you might think. This mystery product is none other than sugar.
So how does sugar affect our skin?
Through a process called ‘glycation’. Glycation is a natural part of the ageing process, and is the name for the chemical reaction which occurs when sugars in the body attach to proteins. When the sugar and protein come together, they react and form ‘advanced glycation end products’ (commonly known as AGEs) which causes the protein fibres to become stiff.
Excess sugar can cause health problems
A lot of what was known previously about AGEs was that it contributes to health issues such as heart disease and kidney failure. The excess sugar literally causes arteries to stiffen and harden reducing the amount of blood which can circulate effectively through the body. This isn’t new information; we need flexible and healthy arteries to carry the blood around our bodies. If the blood flow is restricted then this can result in health issues. The piece of this puzzle which is new is that it can also affect the skin.
Sugar loosens the elasticity of skin
Recent research has shown that the proteins in skin most susceptible to glycation from excess sugar are the very ones which make your complexion plump and youthful – collagen and elastin. When these proteins are subjected to the AGEs process they become less supple, weak and discoloured which shows on the skin as wrinkles, sagginess and loss of youthfulness. Additionally, because the proteins have become weakened by glycation they are then more prone to damage from UV rays.
So what can be done? Glycation is a natural process which means it will happen in our bodies whether we want it to or not. But it is possible to slow the effects down by making changes to our diets and ensuring that we are looking after our bodies in the best way possible. Foods which contain white sugar, in any form, should be avoided and increasing your consumption of ‘good’ carbohydrates such as brown rice and wholemeal bread will help. Eating foods high in antioxidants such as vegetables, nuts and seeds is also a good way to combat glycation. Drinking green tea is also a fantastic way of combating glycation; it stimulates the production of collagen which can reduce the effects of any AGEs damage already evident on your skin.
You could also upgrade your skincare regime, there are an increasing number of products coming onto the market which are designed to fight the effects of glycation. In fact, the majority of anti-ageing creams will contain ingredients designed to fight the effects of AGEs.