Already consumed your body weight in chocolate this Easter long weekend? Don't get me wong, Easter has to be one of my all time favourite holidays, the smell of Hot Cross Buns toasting in the oven and Easter Eggs; why do Easter Eggs taste so much better than regular chocolate?
Ok are you sitting down? It's time to get real...here's the sad but honest truth: nothing (I repeat, NOTHING) made with added sweetner is truly good for your skin and that includes Easter Eggs folks! Sugars contribute to the breakdown of skin cells, which results in enhanced ageing and we don't even see it coming!
Since we're all chasing the fountain of youth, you should know that the sugar in most chocolate (Easter Eggs included) works against collagen production and elasticity.
Another hidden villain in our favourite Easter Chocolate is dairy. Chocolate contains cream, milk and butter. Dairy is known to cause breakouts and skin issues. Eliminating dairy from your diet can improve skin texture and tone and improve skin conditions like acne and rosacea.
It's all about balance! When our diet is not balanced (FYI: a whole bag of cadbury easter eggs and a red tulip elegant bunny for Easter Sunday breakfast - does not provide a balanced diet), it isn't long before we start to see the results with unsightly breakouts - and let's be real, bad breakouts make us want to eat chocolate even more!
When you eat lots of sugar (like chocolate) and refined carbohydrates such as white rice, bread and pasta, levels of blood sugar in the body become high and remain so.
As a result, sugar molecules permanently bond to proteins, including the collagen in the skin – a process known as glycation. This produces a chemical reaction in the skin, that makes its surface more stiff and inflexible, leading to premature ageing making skin tougher and more wrinkled.
Glycation is damage to the skin from the inside due to the consumption of excess sugar. It results in the three signs of ageing that we don't want – wrinkles, lines and discolouration. It can even lead to your skin becoming saggier as both collagen and elastin are damaged and become misshapen.
The effect of sugars on aging skin is governed by the simple act of covalently cross-linking two collagen fibers, which renders both of them incapable of easy repair. Glucose and fructose link the amino acids present in the collagen and elastin that support the dermis, producing advanced glycation end products or “AGEs.” This process is accelerated in all body tissues when sugar is elevated and is further stimulated by ultraviolet light in the skin. The effect on vascular, renal, retinal, coronary, and cutaneous tissues is being defined, as are methods of reducing the glycation load through careful diet and use of supplements.
The glycation process can cause a host of skin problems including fine lines, wrinkles, spots under the skin (not to be confused with zits), inflammatory skin conditions, wrinkles and bags under the eyes.
Glycation does not operate to damage the skin through a single mechanism: instead, it works through a variety of channels to undermine the natural youthful beauty of skin, destroying it at the cellular level. Let’s take a look at some of these channels now.
Every few months or so, your body replaces all of your skin cells with new ones. Old cells wear out, flake off, and need replacing. Glycation, however, can interrupt this renewal process by reducing the ability of the body to create important skin constituents, like collagen. Glycation – because of the damage that it does to capillaries – also prevents new nutrients from being delivered to the site of skin cell production, slowing of the renewal process and making skin appear less vibrant and youthful.
Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals thrown off by metabolic processes. When our cells burn sugar for energy, they do not do so with perfect efficiency. Unburned fuel can sometimes exit the cellular energy powerhouses and react with other tissues in the body, causing damage. The problem with glycation is that it can foster the production of more free radicals by reducing the efficiency with which the cell burns fuel. These byproducts then react with whatever they come into contact with, damaging skin cell membranes, DNA and the ability of cells to repair themselves.
The body creates collagen and elastin to make skin both elastic and bouncy. But while we produce these chemicals in large quantities while we are young, but our ability to do so declines with age. Glycation can accelerate this decline by wreaking havoc on the collagen- and elastin-producing cellular machinery in the skin, making skin sag and wrinkle.
We’re familiar with the fact that compromised collagen production equals skin sagging (and therefore wrinkle formation), but sugar is also a powerful dehydrating agent. It not only boosts sebum production but also affects water binding. This can make your skin look less bouncy and greyish, adding to those unwanted dark circles around your eyes.
The proteins in skin most prone to glycation are the same ones that make a youthful complexion so plump and springy—collagen and elastin. When those proteins hook up with renegade sugars, they become discolored, weak, and less supple; this shows up on the skin's surface as wrinkles, sagginess, and a loss of radiance. The presence of AGEs also makes the complexion more vulnerable to bad-news assailants such as UV light and cigarette smoke. As New York–based dermatologist Cheryl Karcher, MD, puts it: "Number one, the glucose makes the cells abnormal; and number two, it creates free radicals. So you get a double whammy when it comes to aging."
To an extent, glycation is a fact of life. It's happening right now, to all of us. It can even be measured: The cross-links formed between sugars and proteins emit a fluorescence, which scientists can capture using Visia complexion-analysis cameras. "If you take a fluorescent image of children, their faces will come out very dark," says Procter & Gamble biochemist Greg Hillebrand, PhD, "but with each decade, the AGEs, and therefore the brightness, will accumulate more and more." This means that by the time we reach our dotage, we can expect our Visia visages to resemble those of the incandescent aliens in Cocoon. The external signs of glycation show up around the age of 30 or 35, when a perfect storm of built-up sun damage, environmental oxidative stress, hormonal changes, and the development of AGEs begins to result in, well, a-g-e. "When you're younger, your body has more resources to ward off damage, and you're producing more collagen," says New York– and Miami-based dermatologist Fredric Brandt, MD, who in 2007 was one of the first to launch an anti-aging skin-care line specifically addressing glycation. "When you reach a certain age, these sugar by-products begin to build up at the same time that your threshold for damage is getting lower."
Lest you rue the day you first tasted Easter Eggs, note: Refined sugar isn't the only culprit. Health-nut staples such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables turn to glucose when digested too—albeit in less damaging fashion. And even if we could completely eliminate all types of sugar from our diets, we shouldn't: It's an essential fuel for cells and energy metabolism, critical to survival. "For most people with normal levels of glucose, the glycation process is something that happens gradually over the course of a lifetime, and it's really not that big of a deal," Hillebrand says, "but diet and lifestyle choices can affect how quickly the effects can be seen on the skin." One of the key hallmarks of glycation, Hillebrand explains, is the yellowing of skin often seen prematurely in smokers. "Smoke reduces antioxidants in skin, and smokers' vitamin C and E are being used up trying to take care of all this oxidation that's caused by smoking, so they don't have a lot of antioxidant potential to take care of normal processes like glycation," he says. "And if you add a high-glycemic-index diet, you're just asking for trouble."
Diet and lifestyle choices can affect how quickly the effects of glycation can be seen on the skin so avoid a high glycemic load diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, smoking, processed foods and meats, excess alcohol and foods that have been deep fried.
It’s all about limiting excess sugar intake and reducing both oxidative stress and oxidisation.
Try too to stay away from high-fructose corn syrup as studies have shown that when this sweetener significantly increases the rate of glycation – it’s in fizzy drinks and many processed sweets.
The good news is that it that once a protein has been glycated it can be repaired.
We’d all like to avoid skin glycation if possible, but can it be reversed? Glycation is, no doubt, one of the most powerful promoters of the aging process. Although we may not be able to stop it entirely, using diet, exercise, and cutting-edge supplements, we can significantly inhibit it and even reverse some of the damage caused by already existing Advanced Glycation End (AGEs) products.
The food we eat is one of the primary reasons why so many people suffer premature skin aging. High levels of sugar in the diet lead to AGEs which, in turn, decrease the ability of skin cells to repair and renew.
Healthy diets, low in refined sugar and high in things like beans, greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains can put the brakes on glycation, reduce the production of AGEs in the bloodstream, and help to protect skin cells from damage. Many plant foods contain co-factors which prevent the formation of AGEs and promote long-term health.
A Mediterranean diet is one of the best diets fro your skin, and body.
This type of diet focuses on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to reduce inflammation and provide high levels of the free radical fighting vitamin trio – A, C and E.
Foods like chickpeas, lentils, beans and most vegetables are rich in fibre – this not only helps with digestive health but it also helps to regulate blood sugar levels which helps fight glycation.
You should drink a cup or two of green tea each day as this is a powerful skin protector that stimulates collagen production and consume more tomatoes as they are high in Lycopene which has an anti-glycation action.
You can increase dietary levels of the amino acid carnosine by consuming more fish, organic cheese and eggs.
Carnosine is an amino acid that has been shown to protect against the damaging effects of AGEs.
Other foods to consume to help tighten that saggy glycated skin includes avocados, mackerel, nuts, seeds, beans, squash and leafy greens.
These foods are all anti inflammatory to which is an added bonus for the skin.
Brightly coloured AGE inhibiting berries are rich in fibre, antioxidants and vitamin C which can help with collagen cross linking.
Collagen cross linking helps with skin firmness and can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Spices can also be of use to help fight ageing with turmeric, cinnamon, clove, ginger, garlic, oregano and all spice all having the ability to inhibit the production of AGEs thanks to their anti-inflammatory and immune boosting and blood sugar balancing properties.
High levels of fasting blood glucose generate high levels of AGEs. It is one of the reasons why researchers think that people with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease. Increased fasting blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels, increasing the chances of plaque buildup on artery walls.
Exercise, however, can give people better control over the amount of sugar in the blood both during and afterward, reducing the opportunity for AGEs to form.
Anti-glycation supplements are oral treatments which help to reverse glycation in the skin. These supplements often contain a variety of substances borrowed from the plant world that have been shown to have positive, anti-AGE effects in the skin.
It is well known, for instance, that beta-carotenoids – the yellow-orange substance found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale – become incorporated into the skin after ingestion and can protect it from UV radiation. Many anti-glycation serums include carotenoids as active ingredients to help bolster the skin’s defenses from the inside.
Anti-glycation supplements also contain potent antioxidants which help to mop up the damaging effect that AGEs have on the ability of cells to burn energy cleanly. A high level of antioxidants in the skin can help to clear away some of the damaging byproducts of cellular metabolism before they can damage surrounding tissue.
Co-Q10 helps fuel repair and regeneration. This fat-soluble co-enzyme says no to oxidation.
Here's to beautiful, glowing skin!