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The not-so-sweet |science of ageing

Mar 16. 2016
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With summer approaching, most of us will be reaching for a chilled soft drink and a scoop of ice cream to cool us down.

 With summer approaching, most of us will be reaching for a chilled soft drink and a scoop of ice cream to cool us down. But before you reach for that cold bottle or ice cream, you might want to consider how these treats are affecting your face. And that’s not a sweet story: recent research has shown that a sugar-rich diet is to blame for early signs of ageing.

When you eat a high-sugar diet, the food rapidly converts to sugar in the bloodstream. The sugar molecules attach to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products or AGEs for short.

This process creates inflammation, which can activate your immune system and lead to accelerated ageing of the body.

Accumulation of AGEs damages the proteins in a domino effect. The proteins most vulnerable to damage are the same ones responsible for a youthful complexion – namely collagen.

Sugar breaks down collagen and creates crosslinks that turn collagen from an elastic, soft and supple substance into a rigid and brittle one, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These ageing effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Another study by Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands in collaboration with Unilever in the UK confirms that consuming a diet high in sugar over a period of time wreaks havoc on skin and is terrible for your face. The scientists measured blood sugar levels of 600 men and women aged between 50 and 70. Photographs of these people were presented to a board of 60 independent evaluators. What these evaluators perceived in this study was that those with higher blood sugar levels looked older than those with lower levels.

Experts now believe that a lifetime of eating too much sugar can age you faster than you might be genetically programmed to age.

So is it time for everyone to accept a life of sugar abstinence?

Not yet, because sugar is an essential fuel for cells and energy metabolism, critical to survival. However sugar is in virtually every meal we consume, so cutting out additional sugar entirely such as in cakes, soft drinks, ice cream and dessert would be wise. Or try to limit your total sugar consumption to 25 grams or less (4-6 teaspoons) per day.

The bottom line is if you truly want to maintain a youthful appearance, it is essential to reduce your sugar intake. Beauty and health come from the inside out. You are what you eat and drink, it really is that simple!

THANISORN THAMLIKITKUL MD |is a member of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and |Aesthetic Surgery and certified in dermatological laser surgery. |Send your questions |for her to

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