Sugar damage – or glycation – and its connection to wrinkles and other signs of skin aging is something I have written about elsewhere on this site so the results of the study came as no surprise.
Nonetheless it is interesting that scientists are starting to focus on sugar as a potential cause of aging.
Sugar damage has been the cause of much scientific research in recent years but all of it has focused on the health aspects of high blood glucose – diseases like diabetes, cancers and heart problems are all linked to high levels of sugar consumption.
This is the first study to look at the effects of raised blood sugar on something so seemingly superficial as appearance – specifically how much older it can make you look.
The research was carried out by a team from Unilever in the UK and was based on a study of blood sugar levels in 602 people.
Results which were published in The Age Journal showed that those with higher blood sugar levels were judged to look older on average than participants with low sugar levels. As the leader of the research, David Gunn commented: “The higher glucose people had, they started looking older. Diabetics looked older again, and they have had the worst exposure to high glucose levels.
So – how is this happening? Although scientists were not prepared to give a definite view – raised blood sugar speeds up aging in two main ways.
Sugar binds to collagen and causes it to harden and lose flexibility. Collagen is a key factor in skin’s youthful bounce and suppleness – loss of collagen results in increased wrinkling, loss of bloom and an aged look. High blood glucose levels also inhibit insulin production which is thought to contribute to aging.
The impact of diet and nutrition on looks is understood by most of us – after all – “you are what you eat”. Anyone who has strayed from a healthy diet and gained pounds from cakes, chocolates and cookies knows this to be true. It isn’t just the extra weight that makes us feel awful after the holiday indulgence – look in the mirror and you can see the effects of too much sugar in your skin as well as around your waistline.
So thanks to David Gunn and the Unilever Research team for giving us all a motivation boost just when we need it to kick off the new year. Saying no to sweet treats, eating complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars and taking regular exercise is definitely the way to look younger AND keep healthy as we get older.