Sugar and Aging: Glycation Effects And How to Combat It

Most women believe that cutting sugar helps maintain an attractive physique. But other than the body we must also learn about how glycation causes skin aging.

Sugar? Yes, please.

Oops! Are you sure about it? Extra sugar?

Surprising is the woman who can enjoy dessert without fear of gaining weight later.

Sugar is a sneaky enemy when it comes to our bodies — falling prey to its sweet sound (My Lips Like Sugar) will satisfy our taste buds before causing mayhem elsewhere. But not many of us are concerned that eating it can create wrinkles and that’s not a nice story either.


Therefore, there’s no need for sugarcoating on this — SUGAR AGES YOU!

The logic is this: sugar molecules hit the body’s cells like thunderstorms, glycating fats, and proteins. This results in advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which stiffen and deform protein fibers. [1]

Sugar makes you older. Sugar is one of the main offenders for premature aging of the face and body.

Not only should you avoid sugar for health reasons, but you should also safeguard your appearance from the aging effects of it. Here’s how sugar can be aging you.

How Can Something So Delicious Be So Bad For Your Skin?

Sugar’s unsavory effects on skin stem from our bodies’ glucose breakdown. This process, called glycation, causes skin aging.

It’s how a sugar molecule binds to a protein or lipid. This forms an “advanced glycation end product” that breaks down collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles.

Consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates (aka sugar camouflaged) can accelerate skin aging. [1] So what to do? Understand the process of glycation, the signs that it’s aging your skin, and how to fight it.

How Glycation Looks Like

Glycation occurs when sugar molecules bond to fats and proteins in the body. These sugar, fat, and protein molecules combine to generate AGEs.

Malformed protein fibers trigger connective tissue damage, chronic inflammation, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular tightness, pancreatic and liver illnesses, and other problems that diabetics are familiar with.

Collagen and elastin are two proteins that women want to keep as they age due to their capacity to create youthful, plump, and bouncy skin.

Unfortunately, when collagen and elastin attach to sugar molecules, they become discolored, weak, and brittle. Skin becomes wrinkled, sagging, and lifeless. Environmental hazards including UV radiation and smoking are also heightened due to glycation. [2]

Glycation lines appear as cross-hatched lines and wrinkles. It crosses over the cheeks and around the chin. Normal wrinkles are linear and often parallel in areas of facial movement. 

Glycation’s Effect On Your Skin [1] [2]

  1. It damages elastin & collagen.

Collagen and elastin, the skin’s building components, are the most sensitive proteins to degradation. That plump, bouncy look of good skin is due to these proteins.

Anti-aging agents like AGEs stiffen collagen and elastin, reducing their pliability resulting in fine lines, sagging, and wrinkles on the skin.

  1.  It affects your collagen type.

A high-sugar diet also impacts collagen type. Your skin has three forms of collagen (aptly named Type I, II, and III).

Glycation converts Type III collagen to Type I, weakening the skin’s structural integrity and stability.

  1.  It disables natural antioxidant enzymes.

AGEs also damage your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes. Without antioxidants, your skin is more exposed to free radical damage from pollutants, blue light, and UV radiation.

If free radicals are allowed to roam (and bind to skin structural proteins), they cause oxidative stress and premature skin aging.

Signs That Glycation Is Aging Your Skin

The British Journal of Dermatology reports that glycation becomes noticeable in women around the age of 35.[3

By this time, oxidative damage, hormonal shifts, and AGE formation compound. Skin begins to age due to insufficient collagen and elastin synthesis to prevent oxidative damage. Here are some indications that sugar is aging your skin:

  1. Your skin appears tough and shiny.
  2. The upper lip develops deep crosshatch lines.
  3. Skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation.
  4. Deep fissures occur, especially near the snort.
  5. Your jowl skin sags.

How Can You Prevent Glycation?

Lessening obvious indicators of aging is never too late. Now that you know how sugar harms your skin, here’s how to repair it and look great:

  1. Limit Sugar

It’s tough to fully avoid sugar, but there are strategies to reduce intake. One option is to limit added sugar to 10% of daily calories and avoid “hidden sugars” like barley malt, fruit juice concentrate, and maple syrup.

The worst of the gang: HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). This sugar is present in soft drinks, sweetened fruit drinks, and many packaged meals.

  1. Drink More Water

Drinking water does not directly affect skin hydration, but it does help the body perform critical tasks that support healthy skin.

Hydration is crucial for collagen and elastin formation, as well as reducing the aging effects of glycation. Consume plenty of water and hydrate-rich foods like cucumber, tomatoes, and watermelon.

  1. Incorporate Supplements into Your Diet

Some research mentions B1 and B6 as AGE inhibitors. Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is found in green peas, sesame seeds, and spinach.

Chickpeas, pinto beans, and sunflower seeds contain vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), required for skin development and maintenance. [4]

  1. Nourish Yourself with Antioxidants

Antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage. Inhibiting glycation by preventing sugar from binding to proteins.

Antioxidants are found in foods like berries, leafy greens, and coffee, as well as in your body. They’re in your skincare. Look for products with Vitamins C and E, which assist collagen and elastin keep their form and strength.

  1. Rest

Get adequate sleep is one of our beauty secrets. Sleeping skin regenerates and repairs any damage done throughout the day.

Sleep deprivation causes fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and loss of suppleness. Quality sleep is just as important as quantity. During deep sleep, your body works hardest to combat the effects of sugar and other stressors.


Diet and Glycation

Diet affects skin aging. If you ask me how to slow down skin aging, you should know all the lifestyle adjustments you can make to improve skin health.

Foods that increase AGE levels in the body include:

  • Animal-derived products (meat, chicken, fish, cheese, dairy, eggs)
  • Carbohydrates that have been refined and cooked at a high temperature (white sugar, white flour, oil, white bread, etc.)

Foods with a lower AGE content in the body include:

  • Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Ensure that food is eaten raw or cooked only to a reasonable degree (steamed, boiled, light stir fry in water).

General pointers on AGE:

  • AGEs are found in the highest levels in fats and meat products.
  • Carbohydrates have a low AGE content.
  • The amount of AGEs produced increases as the cooking temperature rises.
  • Longer cooking durations result in higher levels of AGEs.
  • The presence of water in the cooking process decreases the levels of AGEs.
  • AGEs are higher in processed foods than in natural or homemade foods.

As you can see, both how you prepare the food and the food itself have a significant impact on AGE levels. High heat appears to play a role in the production of AGE in food, especially when paired with fats/oils.

Something to Remember…

Sadly, glycation is a natural process that occurs in everyone’s body, not simply from refined sugar consumption.

Sugar is an important fuel for cells and energy metabolism, thus it cannot be completely avoided. AGE (aging-related epidermal growth factor) is a protein that is produced in the skin by the body as a result of sun exposure damage, environmental stress, hormonal changes, and aging. [2]

Fortunately, food and lifestyle choices can reduce the impact of glycation and AGEs on your skin. Consuming healthy carbs like brown rice and whole-grain bread while avoiding sugar and high-fructose corn syrup can help reduce the glycation process.

Green tea, whether administered topically or ingested regularly, can inhibit glycation while also promoting collagen synthesis. Anti-aging products can also help minimize AGE development, but some are more effective than others, so choose cautiously!

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