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Does sugar cause wrinkles? Skin aging myths explained

Is sugar really responsible for premature aging? Alongside dermatologist and skin expert Dr. Nina Roos, we take a look at some of the most common myths about diet and skin aging.

Does sugar cause wrinkles? Skin aging myths explained

How diet and aging are linked

It’s true what they say: you are what you eat. Research has shown that our diet has a significant role to play not only in determining our overall health, but also in securing a bright future for our skin.

While it’s easy to think that all sugar is bad for your skin, it’s important not to cut out all sugar or carbohydrates from your diet. Naturally occurring sugars, such as glucose, fructose (found in fruits) and lactose (found in dairy products), act as energy sources for the body.

Refined sugars, on the other hand, can seriously affect the body’s ability to age well. Studies focusing on individuals whose diets featured high levels of refined sugars suggest links with obesity, heart disease, and high cholesterol.[2] Found in sweets, cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks or sodas, these sugars can considerably damage our skin, as well as our overall health.

How sugar affects skin

We asked dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos to explain how sugar can affect our skin’s future. Nina explains that
skin’s collagen levels can become significantly weakened if we consume too much refined sugar, resulting from a phenomenon known as glycation. Studies have shown that fructose and glucose - two of the most common molecules associated with sugary foods - work to ‘tangle’ collagen cells’ inherent structure, making them more difficult to repair.[3] Certain methods of cooking food, such as grilling and frying, have also been shown to speed up the glycation process in food molecules.[4]

two of the most common molecules associated with sugary foods - work to ‘tangle’ collagen cells’ inherent structure, making them more difficult to repair

What’s more, Nina says that this process doesn’t just take place across the face - rather, all of the body’s skin tissue suffers as a result of this process. This results in reduced firmness, which can leave wrinkles appearing more pronounced, especially in areas where skin is thinner (such as the eye contour).

When combined with other forms of stress on skin, such as dehydration and free radical damage, the effects can be surprising. As a result, it’s important to pay attention to your diet, lifestyle, environment and skincare in order to help your skin age as well as it can.

[1] Schagen, S., Zampeli, V. et al. ‘Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging’ in Dermato-endocrinology 4.3 (2012) pp. 298-307 [Accessible at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/]
[2] Welsh, J. The Journal of the American Medical Association, April 21, 2010; vol 303: pp 1490-1497.
[3] F.W. Danby, ‘Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation’ in Clinics in dermatology 28.4 (2010) pp. 409-411 [Accessible at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20620757/]
[4] H.P. Nyugen, R. Katta, ‘Sugar Sag: Glycation and the Role of Diet in Aging Skin’ in Skin therapy letter (2015) 20.6 pp. 1-5 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27224842]

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