For many of us, the holiday season provides the perfect excuse to indulge in sweets of all kinds. From cookies and fudge to candy canes and pecan pie, we are surrounded with sugar-filled treats everywhere we turn: at work, the mall, holiday parties and our homes, as we prepare for guests.
While these indulgences give us a temporary hit of pleasure, they also wreak havoc on our bodies — and it’s beyond weight gain and cavities! Sugar causes glycation, a process in the body that speeds up aging and reduces body tissue integrity. That’s right! Sugar molecules age the skin!
Glycation is an uncontrolled bodily process that takes place naturally over time. It is a harmful chemical reaction in our tissues that occurs when sugar molecules (e.g., fructose, glucose) bombard (significantly altering their structure) and then attach to fats and proteins without the moderation of an enzyme. Lacking the necessary enzymatic activity, these rogue molecules, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), have nothing to regulate their metabolic functioning. They avoid the normal glycosylation of sugars and, instead, disrupt metabolic pathways and can promote certain health and premature aging issues.
The more sugar we eat, the more AGEs accumulate and cause havoc on our tissues. While excess sugar is the main culprit, certain types affect the process more than others. “Laboratory results have shown that the rate of fructose/protein cross-linking is 10 times greater than the linkage that occurs from glucose.” (Source) So, try your best to avoid white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup!
As a side note, glycation can occur outside the body when sugars react with proteins and fats as they are exposed to high temperatures. Broiling, frying, grilling, roasting and searing can all accelerate AGE formation.
The Damage Caused by Glycation/AGEs
While the formation of AGEs is a part of normal metabolism, excessively high levels in the bloodstream and tissues makes them pathogenic. AGEs are believed to have the ability to promote oxidative stress and have been “linked to the induction and progression of many chronic diseases.” They encourage inflammation and are strongly associated with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, type II diabetes, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disorders, visual impairment, heart disease, and skin disorders. (Source)
Much of what is known about glycation’s ill effects comes from diabetes research: The connective-tissue damage and chronic inflammation resulting from diabetics’ sustained high blood sugar can lead to debilitating conditions, such as cataracts, Alzheimer’s, vascular tightening, and diseases of the pancreas and liver.
As it relates to this post, these harmful molecules seem to age the body faster than nature intended by degrading our structural proteins, especially elastin and collagen. As they attach to renegade sugars, they become abnormal, weak and less elastic, making the surface of our skin saggy, wrinkly and dull. In addition, AGEs can make our skin more vulnerable to cigarette smoke and the sun’s UV rays.
Protein degradation occurs as a result of cross-linking and the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE). These changes figure prominently in the processes of aging and its typical signs such as skin wrinkling and brain degeneration. (Source)
The negative effects of all of this tend to show up between the ages of 30 and 35, as years of environmental stressors, accumulated sun damage, hormonal changes and AGEs wreak havoc on our skin. In younger years, our bodies produced more collagen and had a higher threshold to defend itself.
How to Fight Glycation
This holiday season (and beyond), do your skin a favor by passing over the high-sugar temptations and trying other ways to slow glycation. All the creams and serums in the world won’t help with aging skin that is caused by AGEs.
- Try to get your sugar from whole fruit sources. You get natural sugar, plus vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Avoid refined/processed sugars, including those in foods, beverages and syrups. They just add empty calories without any nutritional value.
- If you are not a sugar fan, try to limit your intake of simple carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and other unrefined grains, as they, too, can turn to sugar almost immediately after they hit the bloodstream.
- Try targeted dietary supplements:
- CARNOSINE — This dipeptide acts as an anti-glycating agent in the body. It works to support normal AGE formation.
- BENFOTIAMINE — This nutrient works in the body by blocking several major molecular pathways where hyperglycemia damages cells. It is a highly bioavailable form of vitamin B1 that may support healthy AGE levels.
- ALPHA LIPOIC ACID — This mitochondrial metabolite acts as an antioxidant in the body and is known to work particularly well in vulnerable cell powerhouses. It supports normal glycation and glucose utilization.
- GLYCATION MANAGER — This formula combines the above ingredients with turmeric and grape seed. It is designed to support the slow formation of AGEs and protein glycation related to normal metabolism and aging.
So, as you’re reaching for a second dessert at Christmas dinner, remember: constantly loading sugars into your body causes the collagen in your skin to age faster!
Have you incorporated a low-AGE diet into your health regimen? Let us know all about it in the comments section below!