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Does Sugar Make You Look Older?

Updated: May 23, 2019

Did you know that your sweet tooth can have a direct affect on how old you look?

Most people know that too much sugar is bad for your waistline, but not so many know that sugar can directly effect how you age and that sugar can have such a negative affect your skin.

Here's how sugar makes you look old:

  • The elastin in our skin keeps it 'elastic'.

  • The collagen in our skin keeps it plump and 'youthful'

  • Sugar spikes cause an outburst of inflammation within the body.

  • The inflammation releases enzymes which break down the elastin and collagen.

  • Reduced elastin and reduced collagen makes the skin look 'thin', saggy, and causes wrinkles, making you look older.

We are constantly hearing about new beauty treatments, hacks and lotions, all claiming to preserve our youth and there’s clearly big desire to to maintain a younger appearance.

We are so obsessed with our looks that global cosmetic skin care industry is worth an estimated $130 billion a year, and the daily skin care routines throughout our lives are testament to that!

But what if we are spending all of that money and time trying to protect our youth from the outside, when we are doing all the damage from the inside?

Woman with young skin

What actually makes us look young?

Our skin is actually the body's largest organ and elastin and collagen are the two proteins within the skin that keep it taught and youthful looking.

In simple terms elastin keeps your skin ‘elastic’, so that when you smile or frown or perform the millions of subtle movements through the various facial expressions every single day, it enables the skin to ‘spring back’ to where it originally was.

Basically elastin keeps the skin flexible and with plenty of ‘recoil’.

fresh faced woman

Collagen is responsible for keeping our skin plump and taught by ‘bulking’ it out.

Both of these properties, collagen for the plumpness and elastin for the 'springiness', result in skin that has a youthful appearance.

However, when we eat foods that are high in excessive sugar, it breaks down and reduces the collagen and elastin in our skin.

Simple carbohydrates such as refined sugar, and white flour products cause a spike in your insulin levels, creating what is effectively a quick burst of inflammation throughout the cells of your body.

Inflammation can then produce enzymes which will break down the elastin and collagen in the skin, causing it to lose it’s elasticity, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin.

And by reducing these proteins, we start to reduce any youthful ‘plumpness’, making the skin 'thinner' and enabling wrinkles to form far easier.

The science of food and your skin

The technical term for the new molecules that are created during this reaction are called ‘Advanced Glycation End-products’ (ironically called AGE’s for short!).

The more sugar you eat, the more AGE’s you produce, and in another ironic twist, these AGE’s deactivate you body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, which leave you more vulnerable to the worst kind of skin damage there is - sun damage.

Woman sunbathing

People with type 2 diabetes, and especially those with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, often show signs of early skin ageing, as some diabetics can have as many as 50 times more AGE’s in their skin than those who don’t have diabetes.

This process is similar to the way that arteries can harden causing coronary heart disease.

In addition to all of this, sugar can weaken the overall immune system, which then becomes weak at fighting off bacteria - and bacteria that gets clogged in pores created spots and pimples.

So as well as ageing our skin, sugar can also be responsible for reducing it's clarity.

Now of course, the occasional overindulgence won’t make much difference, but the problem becomes more severe if this is happening on a regular basis - and if you are hooked on sugar then this is likely to be the case.

And believe it or not, many of us are addicted to sugar without even being aware of it.

From regular biscuits in the morning, to sugar in our hot drinks, to a sweet snack mid afternoon, these little sugary treats soon add up!

So - are you wasting your money?

There are so many different options for anti ageing creams and lotions, and their effectiveness depends on their active ingredients.

Woman applying face cream

Over the counter creams aren't classified as drugs and therefore aren't required to undergo the same kind of scientific research to prove their effectiveness, however there are some common ingredients that may result in the reduced appearance of wrinkles.

Popular ingredients are:

  • Retinol is a fancy name for a Vitamin A antioxidant, which helps to reduce free radical cells in your skin. These are the cells that break down and cause the wrinkles in your skin.

  • Vitamin C is a great skin antioxidant, which can help to protect your skin from harmful UV rays from the sun.

  • Peptides are the building blocks of proteins that help the wound healing process and can be found in products for stretch marks and wrinkles.

  • Conezyme Q10, or CoQ10 is an enzyme that helps cells create energy as well as defending them from the harmful effects of free radicals.

  • Green Tea Extract can also be found in some wrinkle creams as it contains compounds with anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

This is by no means a definitive list of ingredients that can have a positive effect on your skin, and it really does make sense to have a daily skin care routine.

But no matter which brand or type of product you choose, it seems crazy to be spending so much time and money on skincare, when your daily intake of sugar from tea, coffee, snacks, cakes and desserts could be undoing all of your good work

And more importantly, putting your hard earned money down the drain.

So that tasty looking sweet, chocolate or dessert could be costing you more that your good looks!

The proof is literally in the pudding

A direct link between blood sugar levels and perceived age was discovered by scientists from the Netherlands at the Leiden University Medical Centre.

Strawberry cheesecake

They conducted a study in conjunction with Unilever UK where they measured the blood sugar levels of six hundred men and women who were between 50 and 70 years old.

They then showed pictures of the people to 60 independent assessors who all agreed that those with higher blood sugar levels looked older than the people with lower levels.

And amazingly, the perceived age of the individual rose by five months for every 1mm per litre increase in their blood sugar!

Even when factors such as whether the person smoked or not were taken into account, there was a straight forward correlation between how high a persons blood sugar was and how old they looked.

Beauty is skin deep

Of course, creams and lotions that are applied to the face, neck and hands are great at moisturising the skin from the outside, and protecting from the elements and the suns harmful rays.

But even so, the inflammation caused by high sugar levels attacks the skin from below, where any kind of cream simply cannot protect it.

And no amount of cosmetics and lotions can affect what is happening from the inside - that has to come from your diet.

We can keep plastering over the cracks, but this is a temporary fix...

woman applying eye makeup

The great news is that it’s never too late to make a difference to your skin, so while sugar may speed up the ageing process of our skin, cutting down on sugar and adopting healthier eating habits will slow down this process.

And although the negative effects of sugar on our skin will eventually put years on us, by going on a sugar detox and cutting out sugar completely you will likely see noticeable positive changes in your skin as quickly as 3 to 4 days - it really is that effective!

You can expect to see clearer, tighter looking skin, and over the long term you will retain a more youthful complexion.

It’s up to us

Of course, trying to keep looking young forever isn’t an attainable goal, no matter what the magazines and TV commercials may tell us.

There is a disproportionate amount of pressure put on women to stay younger looking than their male counterparts, and of course how women decide to age, (either gracefully, or dis-gracefully!) should be up to them as individuals, without pressure.

But allowing ourselves to age prematurely is something we can definitely prevent with simple dietary changes such as a low sugar or a sugar free diet.

And remember, if we can actually ‘see’ the harm excessive sugar is doing to us in the mirror, think about all the other harmful effects it has that we can’t see!

So unfortunately the answer to the question ‘Does sugar make you look older’ is ‘yes, it probably does!’

If you would like to quit sugar for good and regain control of your food choices, you can transform your life with my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program.


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