Glycation and AGEs: What are they and why sugar affects facial aging
We all know that sugar is bad for us–we shouldn’t consume too much as it has negative effects on the body and mind. But did you know that sugar doesn’t just affect your internal health, but also the look of your skin?
In a 2013 study by Leiden University Medical Center and Unilever R&D, a direct correlation was found between people’s blood sugar levels and their perceived facial age. In other words, the more sugar these people consumed throughout their lives, the older they looked.
The study found that people aged 50-70 with high random blood sugar levels consistently looked older than those with lower blood sugar levels. For every 1 millimole per litre increase in blood sugar, perceived facial age increased by five months. Isn’t that crazy! The smallest amount of sugar really takes a toll on your skin’s look and health. These results remained significant even after taking into account other factors known to influence facial aging such as smoking, sun exposure and body mass index.
So how exactly does sugar affect the skin?
Here’s an easy way to think about it: remember all of those times you’ve cut up a piece of fruit like a banana, apple or pear, only to forget about it, and come back and it’s turned brown? This is an example of glycation. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are proteins or fats that have become glycated as a result of exposure to sugars. AGEs aren’t only linked to skin aging, but also cataracts, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other health issues. AGEs can be formed internally in the body or ingested by eating broiled, fried or barbequed food.
Glycation contributes to the visible signs of aging including fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration and skin thinning. It also affects important anti-aging proteins such as collagen and elastin, which keep skin plump and firm. Glycated collagen is stiff and less flexible, and first appears at the age of 20. The signs of aging and glycation are usually seen by age 35 when the body becomes less resilient and produces less collagen.
For healthy people with normal blood glucose levels, glycation happens gradually and slowly over a lifetime. Diet and lifestyle choices can affect glycation. AGE formation increases with age, smoking, poor diet and UV exposure. You can see the effects quite clearly in smokers, for example. The yellowing of skin that appears prematurely in smokers is a sign of glycation. Smoking reduces antioxidants in the skin so there is little antioxidant left in the body to slow glycation.
What can you do to fight AGEs?
Other than doing what you can to reduce your sugar intake, you can also use skincare products with antioxidants and consume foods that are high in antioxidants.
AlumierMD’s new Alumience A.G.E. helps reduce the visible signs of aging caused by free radicals, pollution and AGEs. Arginine, an amino acid, prevents glycation and reduces AGEs. A mix of Carnosine, Silymarin and Vitamin E, combines the power of antioxidants with amino acids to fight free radical damage and glycation.