How Your Sugar Addiction is Damaging Your Skin
We all know that sugar is bad for your teeth and waistline, but what about your skin? Recent studies have found that consuming too much sugar can have damaging effects on your skin. Specifically, sugar-heavy diets can accelerate the aging process and cause acne. So if you’re looking for another reason to quit sweets, you’re in for a treat.
How Sugar Ages your Skin
Sugar increases the effects of aging through a natural process called glycation. Glycation occurs when the sugar molecules in your bloodstream bind to proteins to make harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). And that’s exactly what these molecules do — age your skin. AGEs damage surrounding proteins, and the more sugar you eat the more damage they do. The proteins most vulnerable to AGE harm are collagen and elastin, the two protein fibers that keep your skin firm and elastic. When AGEs damage collagen and elastin, the result is wrinkles and sagging skin.
As if that weren’t enough, AGEs also deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, which protect your body from sun damage. This leaves you more susceptible to sun damage — the main cause of skin aging.
How Sugar Causes Acne
Many experts believe that excess sugar consumption may be linked to acne. In a 2007 study, subjects that switched from a high-glycemic diet (foods that cause a spike in blood sugar) to a low-glycemic diet showed a significant decrease in their acne over a twelve-week period, while a control group who maintained a high-glycemic diet did not.
What explains the link between sugar and acne? Eating high-sugar foods spikes your blood sugar, which causes your body to produce more insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Here’s the rub: as your insulin level increases, it prompts your body to produce more skin oils that may clog your hair follicles and result in acne.
Minimizing Sugar’s Effects on Your Skin
Cutting all sugar from your diet is both unrealistic and unnecessary for achieving healthy skin. What is necessary, though, is an honest effort to minimize your sugar intake. Here are a few practical tips to help:
1. Opt for Complex Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates —like white bread, pasta, ice cream, candy and soda — are rapidly converted into glucose and result in insulin spikes, which may lead to acne. Reduce your consumption of these foods and opt for complex carbohydrates, like fruits and vegetables, brown rice, beans, nuts, brown pasta, couscous, basmati rice and legumes. These foods are broken down into glucose at a slower rate, and thus don’t lead to acne-causing insulin spikes.
2. Take at least 1 mg of vitamins B1 and B6 a day.
If you have a sweet tooth and can’t afford to give up those snacks, there’s another option. A 2015 study found that Vitamin B1 and B6 are proven AGE inhibitors. While these vitamins can be found in various foods, taking a multivitamin that includes both guarantees you’re getting your daily value.
3. Eat more antioxidants
Antioxidants help prevent sugar molecules from attaching to proteins. To help prevent the formation of AGEs, eat more antioxidant-rich foods, like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pinto beans, cranberries, and blackberries.
The effect sugar has on your skin is anything but sweet. For healthier, younger-looking skin, reduce your sugar intake and opt for complex carbohydrates when possible. If you think sugar is destroying your skin, ask a dermatologist!
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