Glycation - How Eating Sugar Ages Your Skin

Last updated on : May 06 2023

Sugar spilling out of teaspoon

A. Sugar and Skin Aging 

Louis Camille Maillard was the first to write about glycation - the changes in specific proteins once they attach to a sugar. She did so in 1912, after discovering the darkening of food as a result of heat treatment or cooking. 

Since then, researchers have seen glycation occurring at much lower temperatures in the human body and proved its involvement in various body pathologies, such as diabetes mellitus and premature aging, including skin aging.

We all know that eating too much sugar is bad for our general health, however, too much sugar is also bad for our skin, and can prematurely age it through a process called glycation.

B. What Is Glycation?

Glycation occurs when sugars (mostly glucose or fructose) attach themselves to protein or lipid molecules forming advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which cause protein fibers to become stiff and malformed.

Glycation is considered a first step in the Maillard or browning reaction, which leads to irreversible chemical modification, browning, and cross-linking of proteins during cooking. These same reactions proceed in the body at lower temperatures and slower rates during normal aging. 

In dermatology specifically, glycation inhibits the process of cell regeneration. It destroys protein compounds and slows the growth of new collagen fibers. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that too much of this destructive process leads to quite serious diseases.  

In addition to premature skin aging, the following are just some of the consequences of glycation:

● a weakening of the immune system;

● diabetes;

● cardiovascular disorders;

● kidney failure;

● crystal turbidity;

● nervous system disorders.  

C. How To Identify Glycation On Your Skin

The skin that is affected by glycation is easy to identify even without additional research. 

There are four distinctive features of glycation skin:

● Dryness

Glycation causes one of the main problems to skin youth — a decrease in moisture levels.

The final products of glycation affect the color and transparency of the upper layer of the epidermis. The skin becomes dull and gets an unhealthy yellow-brown hue.

● Deep Wrinkles

Compaction of collagen fibers leads to the deepening of existing wrinkles. It also stimulates the appearance of new ones, so-called sugar wrinkles.

Since collagen is a long-lived substance, the total amount of collagen in the body decreases with age. In the meantime, the level of compacted collagen increases. 

● Noticeable Pigmentation

Glycation causes pigmentation. Glycation triggers hyperactivity of melanocytes. These are the cells responsible for the production of the pigment - melanin.

 ● Skin Breakouts And Inflammation

Spikes in blood sugar levels often cause inflammation. You've probably noticed that overeating sweet products can cause a rash on your face.

For these reasons, you need to eat a diet low in sugar to maintain a healthy skin condition and overall health. 

D. How To Slow Down Glycation - And Skin Aging

Girl measuring her waist

Unfortunately, you cannot stop skin aging through glycation. However, you can boost a reversal in glycation and keep your skin looking healthier for longer. 

Here are nine tips that are easy to follow.

1. Stick To A Low Sugar Diet (Anti-glycation Diet)

The research led by scientists from Johns Hopkins University (USA) shows that fructose (and other sugars) cause a significant negative impact on the brain and cognitive functions (mainly in men). 

A diet low in sugar but high in protein and fat, on the contrary, reduces appetite and does not have such a negative effect. However, added sugar (especially fructose) increases appetite and leads to weight gain. It also reduces the brain's sensitivity to insulin and suppresses new brain cells' formation in the brain's hippocampus. 

The University of Missouri (Columbia, USA) conducted a small study showing that increasing your daily protein intake from 14% to 25% reduces appetite. 

To curb sweet cravings, you need to increase the balance of fat and protein in the diet. To do so, you should add more nuts, fish, eggs, and avocado to your ration.

Additionally, you can follow the steps below.

2. Eliminate Sugary Drinks

Many popular beverages contain a large amount of sugar.

According to the research, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices supply about 44% of the sugar in our daily diets. Our body does not feel full when consuming calories from these drinks causing us to overeat.

The same research also shows that cutting down on sugary drinks can help you lose weight. It is better to replace sweet drinks with plain water, or water with fresh lemon, water with mint and cucumber, or green tea.

3. Eliminate Sweet Desserts

Many sweet desserts are not exceptionally nutritious.

Moreover, they can significantly increase blood sugar, give a feeling of fatigue, stimulate appetite, and make you eat and drink more.

Milkshakes and ice cream, cakes, and doughnuts supply about 18% of the sugar in the American's ration

If you still want to eat something sweet, then replace the cakes, etc. with the next healthier alternatives:

● Fresh fruit (a little) with a low glycemic index;

● Greek yogurt with fruit;

● Dark bitter chocolate (a few slices);

● Or a small handful of dried fruit.

4. Replace Sweet Sauces

Did you know that all of your favorite sauces contain an impressive amount of sugar?

Sweet chilly, teriyaki, barbecue sauces, and ketchup usually have a lot of it. One tablespoon of ketchup may contain one teaspoon of sugar (4 grams).

If you want to slow the aging process, you should replace sweet sauces and ketchup with fresh or dried herbs and spices or yellow mustard. You can also use either vinegar or pesto. 

5. Get Enough Sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for your health. Poor sleep results in depression and impaired concentration. You also get a decreased immune function. 

There is a lot of research on the connection between sleep level and obesity due to eating sweets. 

One of them highlights how people who don't get enough sleep consume more calories at night. They ate more junk food, drank more soda, and consumed fewer fruit and vegetables. So get a good night's sleep to reduce your cravings for sweets.

6. Watch Low-Fat Products

By replacing higher-fat foods with low-fat ones, we get less fat. However, fat stimulates the appetite, and low-fat foods contain more sugar.

For example, 100 grams of low-fat vanilla yogurt contains four teaspoons (16 grams) of sugar. And 100 grams of full-fat yogurt contain just over one teaspoon of sugar (5 grams)

7. Avoid Candy And Watch Out For Granola And Protein Bars

Most people know that candies and cookies contain a lot of sugar. What to eat instead of them, if you want something sweet? 

Advertising offers to replace candy bars with granola, protein bars, or dried fruit. However, granola and protein bars may contain even more sugar than the candy itself. You should also consume dried fruit only in very moderate amounts. 

It is better to replace candy and cookies with a handful of nuts or with a small amount of a mixture of nuts. Also, you can try dried fruits without added sugar or a small amount of fresh fruit. 

8. Read Food Labels To Find Hidden Sugar

Watch out for these ingredients in food labels, as they are all sugar disguises - cane sugar, juice, maltose, dextrose, invert sugar (syrup), rice syrup, molasses, or caramel. 

Unfortunately, we often find sugar in foods that we least expect to find it in. 

For example, there is a lot of sugar in breakfast cereals and muesli. And manufacturers often add sugar to expensive types of bread. 

Nevertheless, the situation in the USA is improving. The FDA has changed its rules, requiring companies to indicate the amount of sugar on food labels in grams. Moreover, they have to mention the daily allowance.

9. Replace Sugar With Xylitol

Giving up sugar can be very difficult for some people. But the good news is that sugar can be imitated not by any (there are many harmful), but by some good sweeteners. 

The most practical, easily accessible, and not very expensive is xylitol, which does not increase blood sugar. Xylitol stimulates fibroblast growth factor type 1 (so-called FGF21). FGF21 is a hormone secreted by the liver during fasting periods to help the body adapt to a lack of nutrients. 

The liver also synthesizes FGF21 in response to diabetes and many other health problems and drinking alcohol. 

E. Conclusion

Table full of sugary doughnuts

Unfortunately, it is impossible to stop glycation and the aging of your skin.

However, you can try to remove glycation end products from the body as much as possible by controlling your sugar intake.

Following the nutritional tips above to reduce the amount of sugar you eat will not stop the glycation process, but it will help you slow it down - keeping your skin looking healthier longer.

If you're a student and want to research glycation, you can use a biology essay writing service to support your efforts.

F. Bonus Section - Understanding Sugars

It's essential to understand that there are different sugars, including those found naturally in foods and those added to foods.

Natural sugars occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. These sugars are typically accompanied by other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can help to balance their effects on the body.

On the other hand, added sugars are added to foods during processing or preparation, such as sugar added to coffee, baked goods, and processed foods like cereal or candy.

These added sugars are often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, a highly processed sugar used extensively in the food industry due to its low cost and high sweetness.

Regarding glycation, both natural and added sugars can contribute to the process. However, the degree of glycation depends on the type and amount of sugar consumed.

For example, natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables are less likely to contribute to glycation than added sugars found in processed and packaged foods.

To reduce your risk of glycation, limit your intake of added sugars and instead focus on consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods that are naturally low in sugar. By doing so, you'll not only reduce your risk of glycation but also improve your overall health and well-being.

G. Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the questions most frequently asked by our readers.

1. What is glycation?

Glycation is a process in which sugar molecules in the bloodstream attach to proteins and fats in the body, forming harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

2. How does glycation affect the skin?

Glycation can cause damage to collagen and elastin, two essential proteins for maintaining healthy, youthful-looking skin. This damage can lead to premature aging, including wrinkles, sagging skin, and loss of elasticity.

3. Is sugar the only culprit in glycation?

While sugar significantly contributes to glycation, it's not the only culprit. Other factors that can contribute to glycation include smoking, high levels of stress, and a diet high in processed foods.

4. How can I reduce my risk of glycation?

You can reduce your risk of glycation by lowering your intake of sugar and processed foods, increasing your intake of antioxidants, and managing your stress levels.

5. What are some antioxidant-rich foods I can eat to prevent glycation?

Foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, dark chocolate, and green tea, can help prevent glycation by neutralizing free radicals in the body.

6. Can glycation be reversed?

While glycation damage is irreversible, it's possible to prevent further damage by making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and managing stress levels.

7. What are some skincare products that can help prevent glycation?

Skincare products that contain antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can help prevent skin glycation damage. Additionally, using products that promote collagen production, such as retinoids, can help to improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

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