Lots of us are privy to the fact that when it comes to our bodies, sugar is a straight-up villain.
While sugar may bring a quick rush of pleasure, it ultimately creates chaotic effects in and on our bodies. And while you may be aware of what it can do to our insides, are you worried about the wrinkles it might cause?
If you're not, don't worry. You're not the only one, friend. We are only more recently understanding the effects of sugar on our systems in regards to the aging process.
Here's the science behind sugar: When sugar molecules are in your system, they attack the body's cells like an army. They attach themselves to fats and proteins in a process known as glycation.
What is glycation?
This process forms, what is known in the science world as, advanced glycation end products, commonly shortened, and rightfully so, to AGEs. AGEs cause skin protein fibers to become hardened and distorted from their normal structure.
A lot of what's understood about the glycation process and it's damaging effects comes from diabetes research. A diabetic's constant high blood pressure often leads to chronic inflammation and connective tissue damage that in turn results in hyper-destructive conditions such as cataracts, vascular tightening, diseases of the pancreas and liver and Alzheimer's disease.
The proteins in skin most prone to glycation - like collagen and elastin - are the same ones that make up a firm, youthful complexion. When rogue sugars attach to those proteins, they become weakened, less supple and discolored.
This shows up on the skin's surface as wrinkles, dullness and something known as the sugar sag.
Since AGEs make the cells abnormal and create free radicals, they make the complexion more vulnerable to attacks from external factors like smoke, pollution, other toxins and UV light.
Around the ages of 30-35, the external signs of glycation will begin to show up. This is usually around the time in life when The Midlife Skin Crisis © also known as a compilation of lifelong sun damage, environmental oxidative stressors, and hormonal changes that have happened/are happening to the skin create a damaged skin barrier and begin to cause extensive skin issues.
When you're younger, your body has the ability to fight off damage more easily. Cellular turnover happens more quickly and you naturally produce more of the good stuff like collagen.
Once you reach a certain age, things begin to slow down. Since glycation is naturally part of our body's processes and not something that can be totally avoided, we will have sugar by-products in our bodies. The development of those AGEs will begin to build up as your body's natural functions begin to slow down and result in aging.
Glucose, in its healthier forms, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are needed for fuel and are crucial for survival, so we can't just swear off ALL sugars. However, there are diet and lifestyle choices that we can make to ensure the effects of glycation are not seen on the skin early.
So, what can we do?
1. Choose a healthy, clean diet
Eat less simple carbs and refined sugars and more whole grains, fruits and vegatables. Following a healthy, clean diet can lead to less glucose in the system and ultimately results in a slower glycation process.
Foods high in carnosine are also helpful. The amino acids that form carnosine, alanine and histidine, create a competing binding site for glucose to attach to instead of attaching itself to your skin's proteins. It also has antioxidant benefits. Due to it's hydrophilic nature, it protects proteins from oxidation.
Carnosine is mostly present in animal products like beef, turkey, chicken and fish. Of course, you never want to overdo meat in your diet and you want to try to eat as much free range, organic meat within the amount you do intake, but carnosine can help with the glycation process.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, no worries! You can find carnosine in button mushrooms, green peas, soybeans and asparagus, although they do have a naturally lower amount. There are also vegan supplements you can take to help you with your carnosine intake.
You can also find carnosine complexes in some skincare products! Which brings us to...
2. Choose high grade skincare products
Of course, skin care makes a difference too. Scientists have been researching potentially potent anti-glycation ingredients since the 1980s when biochemist Anthony Cerami, PhD, found aminoguanidine was able to block glucose from binding to collagen.
However, anti-glycation products like the Hale & Hush Rare Retinal Serum and the Hale & Hush Eye Mousse have only begun to appear on the market within the last five years or so. As glycation becomes is more recognized and accepted as a major factor in aging, more skincare products are being created to attempt to prevent this process.
3. Avoid smoking and drinking as much as possible
Glycation causes yellowing of skin (or jaundice), which is often seen in people who regularly smoke and/or drink.
Smoke reduces antioxidants in skin. A smoker's naturally occurring vitamins C and E are used attempting to take care of the oxidation caused by smoking, leaving them with less antioxidants to fight a free radical generating process like like glycation.
Alcohol turns to sugar and we all understand from the above what happens here.
4. Exercise regularly
Exercise improves systemic antioxidant activity and decreases oxidative stress. It also reduces and inhibits AGE levels. Since glycation is a free radical generating process that produces AGEs, exercising could be a potential way to prevent and/or slow the glycation process and could even result in a longer lifespan.
5. Bring on the antioxidants
Since glycation is a free radical generating process, antioxidants are the perfect deterrent.
The well-known rockstar green tea has been proven to significantly interfere with the glycation process while stimulating collagen synthesis.
So, guess what friends? If you're using products containing green tea - if you're working with me, you most likely are! - or if you drink green tea regularly, you're already making moves to protect your skin.
Green tea stimulates the fibroblasts to build new collagen. This helps eradicate damage. Your body has a natural process where it breaks down old collagen is using enzymes and replaces it with new collagen. So by enhancing the collagen process, old glycated collagen will eventually be eliminated and replaced by new collagen more quickly.
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