We all know that dehydration, smoking and too much sun is bad for our skin and can cause premature wrinkles. But did you know that sugar can also cause wrinkles and premature aging?!
The reason is a natural process called glycation. Sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs for short). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs your body will make. Most vulnerable to damage by AGEs are collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging.
In addition to AGEs damaging collagen, they also affect what type of collagen you make. The most prevalent collagens in the skin are types I, II, and III, with type III being the best. Type III is the longest lasting and most stable. Glycation transforms type III collagen into type I, which is the most fragile. This causes the skin to be less supple.
Finally, AGEs deactivate your body's natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving your skin more vulnerable to sun damage which is the main cause of skin aging and skin cancer.
So what can you do? Limit your sugar intake, the average American consumes 30 teaspoons of sugar a day. The recommendation is about 10% of your calories or about 10 teaspoons for the average woman. Watch for hidden sugar in foods. Many companies use aliases for sugar to make products seem healthier. Look for barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup and molasses. And avoid high fructose corn syrup! High fructose corn syrup is believed to produce more AGEs than other types of sugar and is therefore possibly more damaging to collagen and your skin.