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Sugar and Your Body, a Recipe for Dull and Ageing Skin

Sugar can play havoc with your skin. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your favourite sweet treats though—you just have to get smart about them.

Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, for many of us, nagging thoughts about the after-effects of indulging in sugary treats are always there. Calorie counts start running through our minds with every bowl of ice cream, and similarly the fat content for every bar of chocolate. However, the worry is usually about your waist. Have your ever thought of the effects of sugar on your skin?

Sugar and your skin

To understand how your skin is affected by sugar, you need to understand what happens when it enters your body. Sugar is inflammatory in nature. Once you eat it, it goes straight to your gut for processing and then directly into your blood stream. All high glycaemic index (GI) foods (foods that are quickly digested and absorbed by the body) such as your everyday baked goods – cakes, doughnuts and white breads, sodas as well as foods with processed sugars and starches—can lead to a spike in insulin. This can result in a worsening of any skin conditions that you may have, or can even trigger them. Flare-ups of acne, psoriasis and eczema are common with high sugar intake.

Another effect of high sugar intake on skin can be seen in the process of glycation. Here, sugar molecules tend to attach to other molecules in the body such as proteins and fats. This leads to the molecules becoming inflexible. Collagen is one such protein that gets affected. It’s an essential building block of skin, making it soft and flexible. As a result of this molecule attachment, the skin loses its elasticity. Besides this, glycation can lead to free radical formation which causes damage to the DNA of skin, speeding up aging. When the collagen in your skin is affected and sagging begins, wrinkles are a natural result.

Another effect is oxidative stress which breaks down essential proteins causes the skin to sag, leading to uneven skin tones, texture and increasing all the signs of premature ageing. Sugar also has intense dehydrating properties – this boosts the production of sebum and has an effect on water binding. Your skin will lose its bouncy feel, will look dull and grey and will aggravate the dark circles around your eyes. Refined sugar also causes insulin surges pushing the levels of testosterone higher, resulting in regular outbreaks of acne.

Save yourself from a sugar face

Let’s save you some heartbreak—you don’t have to eliminate sugar from your diet completely to have great skin. You need to start paying better attention to where your sugar is coming from. There is a world of difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Foods that have natural sugars are supplementing your diet with nutrition too. Avoiding processed sugars and simple carbohydrates is the way to go.

Never compromise on sleep: Depriving the body of sleep leads to impaired insulin sensitivity as well as glucose tolerance. In such cases, glycation is much more likely to take place. The age-old prescription of six to eight hours of sleep each night is recommended by the experts.

Aim for a stress-free life: This is easier said than done. Keep in mind that stress pushes free radical formation and oxidative stress all through the body. In turn, the ageing process speeds up. Stress also leads to an increase in cortisol which breaks down collagen. In your everyday schedule make time to step back and relax. So instead of turning to sweet treats, do some yoga, or drink a cup of tea.

Know your sugars: This will take some work and a deeper understanding of biochemistry, but it’s important to know your sugars. Processed sugar in a cake or ice cream is plain to see. But you often won’t think of sugar in your yogurt, or in the salad dressing or the condiments that you add to enhance the flavour of your food. Even when it comes to fruit, the fructose in them works more actively in glycation than the more popularly known glucose does. Drinking packaged fruit juices therefore is not a good idea and sweet fruits have to be consumed in moderation.

Quit snacking: When an attack of the snacks hits us, it’s often for something sweet. The common suggestion is to eat in small portions through the day to prevent a sugar low. Based on this, logic dictates that maintaining a high level of sugar will help prevent snacking. On the contrary, it increases ageing. The simple way to avoid the urge to snack is to eat protein rich foods which take a long time to break down in the body and help the stomach keep full longer.

Choose a low GI diet: It’s a good idea to stick to meals that are low on the GI index. It can do wonders for your skin. If you do indulge in a high GI meal, which is natural at times (the holiday season is the usual culprit), using natural supplements to counter its effect is a good idea.

Reducing the impact of sugar on your skin is about smart eating habits and being aware of what you put into your body. It will take a little while to get a hang of, but once you do, it’s hello gorgeous skin. Give it a try for a week– combined with cleansing, moisturising and sunscreen, it’s the best thing you can do for your skin.