We’ve just started a new year and many of you may be trying to recoup from overindulgence of sweets and pastries. Although you probably knew that all those cookies, pies, breads and potatoes would likely put on a few extra pounds, I bet you didn’t know that they also caused your skin (and the rest of you!) to age a little too. But take heart, you can stop the damage from going any further. Here’s how.
The Skin Aging Effects of Eating Too Much Sugar
Too much refined sugar – the kind contained in baked goods, candy, soft drinks, etc – can create inflammation in your body. Yet, even high glycemic carbohydrates like certain breads, potatoes, white rice and some fruits and vegetables can also have the same effect as refined sugar in creating inflammation.
Recent research has shown that generalized inflammation is a precursor to aging and the onset of many diseases. Inflammation can have a negative impact on your entire body including your largest organ – your skin!
Too high sugar intake – from either refined (table) sugar or high GI carbohydrate foods – causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. In turn, insulin levels rise to counter it. This process sets off a biochemical reaction that can accelerate cellular aging. Not only does it negatively impact your heart, brain, muscles, etc, your skin is also directly affected. Here’s why.
Sugar molecules attach themselves to the collagen (the skin supporting substance) of your skin, and cause it to age. It does this by stiffening the collagen causing it to lose its flexible resilience. Skin is prone to cracking into deep furrows and wrinkles, which make you, look much older.
Too high sugar/glyemic diets also cause blood pH to become too acid. This high acid creates inflammation throughout your body and causes muscles, ligaments, tendons – all the structures that help support your skin to start breaking down. This results in the overlying skin to sag and wrinkle even more as the structures beneath it have shrunk. Your skin is no longer able to smoothly stretch out over these structures.
What Can You Do To Save Your Skin and Look Younger?
In order to turn off the aging effects of sugar on your skin, you need to do the following:
1. Turn off the sugar supply. Stop eating all the refined sugar and high carbohydrate/glycemic foods (see the following list) and replace with low GI foods for several days. This will help your body stop cranking out insulin in response. You’ll start losing the craving for these fast sugars and your skin will start to show the difference. Its color and tone will perk up first.
2. Add Vitamins A, C, E alpha lipoic acid. These are beneficial skin-building and antioxidant vitamins. They help rebuild collagen and provide significant antioxidants to fight the damaging effects of free radicals that sugar has released.
3. Add protein. Your skin needs optimal levels of protein to rebuild the collagen matrix that supports it. Eat 4-6 ounces of high quality proteins like fish, chicken, lean meats, 2-3 times a day. Even good whey-based protein supplements can help add beneficial protein. Experts say you need 0.3 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Example: 160 lbs needs 48 to 80 grams of protein daily.
These levels may be a little on the low side though, for rebuilding skin and the muscle, tendons, ligaments beneath it, which also support joints. I feel closer to 100 grams of protein a day is optimal. Some bodybuilding experts recommend even more, but I would caution against too much protein to preserve kidney health.
4. Add water. Too high sugar diets also have a dehydrating effect on your skin. Water helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Be sure to drink at least half your body weight in water ounces. For example, you weigh 160 lbs, drink 80 ounces of water, 96 preferable a day.
5. Ban these foods. At least for a while, omit these high refined sugar, high glycemic index foods from your diet. Foods like candy, regular soda, traditional sugar-sweetened baked goods like cake, pastries, cookies, etc, processed foods that contain a lot of sugar. Read the labels, limit serving size sugar grams to 5.
In addition, high glycemic fruits like bananas, raisins, watermelon, and vegetables like corn and candied sweet potatoes, can also skyrocket your insulin levels, blood acid pH, and contribute to damaging inflammation. Stick to 2-3 servings of low GI fruits like berries, grapefruit, apples, and include 7-8 servings of low glycemic green leafy or cruciferous vegetables, purple, yellow/orange and red vegetables.
You can indulge once in a while on special occasions like birthdays, or a treat once in a while, but not a steady, day to day diet of them.
6. Sleep. In addition to banning a high sugar/carbohydrate diet, nothing makes your skin look older than lack of sleep. Aim for 6-8 hours uninterrupted sleep a day.
7. Exercise. Daily exercise helps keep blood sugar levels stable as well as improves oxygen-intake to your entire body. This has an added brightening effect to your skin.
The amount of sugar you include in your diet could have everything to do with keeping your skin (and the rest of you) healthy and youthful. Cleanse yourself of all those sugary excesses of 2012 with a new, less sugar/lower GI diet for 2013. Your body will reward you with better health and more youthful looking skin!