The effects of too much sugar on the waistline are well documented, but new studies suggest there's another problem with excess sugar in the body that has nothing to do with weight, but the skin.
It turns out having too much of it can age the skin prematurely.
A study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition found that of 453 sampled adults, those who ate more processed meat, soft drinks and pastries were associated with more skin wrinkling compared to those who had beans, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, nuts, olives, apples in their diet – who displayed less skin ageing.
Eating lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white rice, bread and pasta, raises the level of blood sugar in the body. This results in sugar molecules bonding to proteins, including collagen in the skin — a process known as glycation, explained anti-ageing and fitness nutritionist Rick Hay to health channel Healthista.
This in turn produces a chemical reaction in the skin, that makes its surface more stiff and inflexible, leading to premature ageing, making skin tougher and more wrinkled.
Glycation is damage to the skin from the inside due to the consumption of excess sugar, resulting in wrinkles, line and discolouration. The skin can become saggier, as both collagen and elastin are damaged.
The good news, however, is that once a protein can be glycated, it can be repaired.
Here are five ways to protect your skin from sugar-induced ageing:
1. Eat more plants
Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein help reduce inflammation and provide high levels of the free radical fighting vitamin trio – A, C and E.
Foods like chickpeas, lentils, beans and most vegetables are rich in fibre – this not only helps with digestive health but it also helps to regulate blood sugar levels which helps fight glycation.
2. Green tea
A cup or two of green tea each day can be a powerful skin protector that stimulates collagen production.
3. Healthy fats
Other foods to consume to help tighten that saggy glycated skin includes avocados, mackerel, nuts, seeds, beans, squash and leafy greens. These foods are all anti-inflammatory too, which is an added bonus for the skin.
4. More berries and citrus
Berries are rich in fibre, antioxidants and vitamin C, which can help with collagen cross-linking. Collagen cross-linking helps with skin firmness and can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They also help to boost wrinkle-fighting hyaluronic acid.
5. More spices
Spices can also be of use to help fight ageing. Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and oregano all have the ability to inhibit glycation thanks to their anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and blood sugar-balancing properties.