BEAUTY CLIQUE > SKIN AND BODY skin and body how-to

Sugar and ageing: the relationship explained

02:00 Wed Jun 13 2012
Leni Andronicos

We all know that when it comes to our bodies, sugar is the enemy. Whether we're wondering where a little extra wobble might show up after dessert or predicting the inevitable post-treat breakout, it's a guilty pleasure that is sure to wreak havoc sooner or later.

But how many of us are worrying about the relationship between sugar and ageing? We explain the fines lines.

When sugar molecules enter your system, they bombard the body's cells — latching onto fats and proteins in a process known as glycation. The result? A few nasty buggers known as advanced glycation end products (more commonly identified as AGEs), which cause protein fibres to become still and malformed.

The worst news, however, is the proteins in the skin which are most prone to glycation are the very same ones that contribute to a youthful complexion. Those plump and lively ones known as collagen and elastin, you know? When they hook up with sugar, they become discoloured and weak, showing up on the skin as wrinkles, dark spots and a loss of radiance. Add sun-damage, environmental stress and hormonal changes into the mix, and well, you've got the perfect storm.

Glycation is a fact of life. It's happening right now, to all of us. Krispy Kreme in hand, or not. But the good news is that while the glycation process cannot be stopped, it can be significantly slowed. That's right, altering your diet and lifestyle choices can affect how quickly the effects are seen. Hurrah!

From a dietary standpoint, cutting white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and carbs from your diet is a must. No questions asked. Taking supplemental carnosine, an amino acid that has been shown to protect again AGE buildup, is also a winning option, almost always recommended by nutritionists. And good news for green tea lovers, the all-important multitasker has been proven to significantly interfere with the glycation process. So if you're using a product containing green tea, or drinking it regularly (we're obsessed here at YBS HQ!), you've already got the party started.

The most encouraging news, however, is that cosmetic antidotes are beginning to appear over the counter, with the introduction of anti-aging creams designed specifically for targeting AGEs. Our favourite? Dr. Brandt's Lineless range — available online. The miracle products contain aminoguanidine molecules which block glucose-collagen pairs from forming.

With these tips in mind, beauties, we also recommend implementing the following actions to protect yourself from AGEs — stat!

Reduce your consumption of bad sugars. This means white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and carbs.

Stabilise your blood sugar levels. Book in an appointment with your nutritionist to learn how to choose foods that will help keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range.

Stock up on vegetables and fruits. Remember that water prevents sugars from binding, so eating fruits and preparing vegetables in water or with steam will help prevent AGEs from forming.

Limit your consumption of processed foods. Techniques used by food manufacturers to improve the taste of their products (like caramelisation and browning) directly increase the number of AGEs contained in them.

Cook meats at a low temperature. The higher the cooking temperature, the more AGEs. Lowering the heat will help to reduce their production.

Drink water regularly. Obvious, but oh-so important.

Stop smoking. We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Not only does smoke reduce the level of antioxidants in the skin, but it also uses up the body's vitamin C and E in the oxidation process that's caused by smoking.

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