I originally intended this article about sugar to concentrate on the effects it has on aging your skin. However, in researching this article it became clear that it is a major contributor to all forms of degenerative diseases and will impact not just the aging of your skin but also the aging of your whole body.
Not So Sweet Facts!
Over the last 20 years, the average yearly sugar consumption per person in the United States has gone from 26 pounds to 135 pounds. Just before the start of the 20th century, the average consumption was only 5 pounds per person per year. To put this into perspective, a typical bag of sugar sold in your grocery store is 5 pounds. In 1890 that one bag would have lasted a person one year. Today, that 5 pound bag only lasts for about 2 weeks.
Wait! I know what you’re thinking! That last 5 pound bag that you bought at the grocery store over a month ago is still sitting on your pantry shelve. There is no way that you’re consuming all this sweet stuff! Right!? Wrong!! What you’re forgetting to count are all the highly refined sugars in the foods you eat and drink. You don’t see them because the food companies give them aliases like barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, turbinado, fructose, and high-fructose corn syrup.
I challenge you to open up your refrigerator and pantry and look at the nutritional facts posted on each food product. The amount of sugar each product contains is listed under “Total Carbohydrates.” Your average soda will have somewhere between 27 to 30 grams of sugar per 8 ounces. Most cans of soda are 12 ounce servings or more. A 12 ounce serving of Gatorade has 22 grams. Even something as healthy as Yoplait’s Original 99% Fat Free yogurt, has 27 grams per serving.
Each teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams. To determine how many teaspoons you are consuming all you have to do is divide the total grams by 4. Your soda at 28 grams is equal to 7 teaspoons of sugar! Your Yoplait yogurt is just slightly less than 7 teaspoons. Possibly you would put one or two, maybe even 3 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, but surely not 7. Yet this is exactly what you’re doing each and every day with some of the foods you eat and drink. You may not directly be eating that 5 pound bag in your pantry but you are consuming an equivalent amount of it through all the different foods and drinks you consume each and every day.
How Sugar/Glucose Ages Your Skin!
There is a natural process in your body called glycation. It happens when the glucose in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products or AGEs for short. It’s a pretty simple process. The more sugar you eat the greater the number of AGEs you develop. According to Dr. Fredric Brandt, dermatologist and author of 10 Minutes 10 Years:
“As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion.”
Most vulnerable to this type of damage are the collagen and elastin protein fibers that keep your skin firm and elastic. Collagen is the most prevalent protein in your body. Once damaged, the normally springy and resilient collagen and elastin fibers become dry and brittle. This leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, this aging effect starts to show itself in the mid 30s and then increases rapidly after that.
In addition to damaging your collagen, a diet high in sugar also affects the type of collagen your body produces. The most abundant types of collagen in your skin are types I, II, and III. Collagen type III is the most stable and long lasting. The process of glycation will transform collagen type III into type I which has less volume and is more easily damaged. According to Dr. Brandt, “When that happens the skin looks and feels less supple!”
The most prevalent and damaging of all sugars is high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup is used heavily in processed foods because it is sweeter, extends the shelf life, and is cheaper to produce. You will find it in most sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and packaged foods. Unfortunately, it produces the greatest number of AGEs.
To compound the problem, AGEs also deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes to reduce your antioxidant levels. This leaves you even more vulnerable to sun damage from free radicals which are the leading cause of aging for your skin.
Sugar Depresses Your Immune System!
Your body uses white blood cells to destroy viruses and bacteria. In the 1970’s researchers discovered that vitamin C was needed by the white blood cells to aid them in the process of destroying viruses and bacteria. Researchers developed a “phagocytic index” which tells them how rapidly a particular macrophage or lymphocyte can gobble up a virus, bacteria, or cancer cell to destroy it. Dr. Linus Pauling realized that white blood cells need a high dose of vitamin C to effectively do their job in protecting you.
Sugar in the form of glucose has a similar chemical structure to vitamin C. As your glucose levels increase, this molecule competes with vitamin C to enter the cell. If there is more glucose present, then there will be less vitamin C allowed into the cell. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much glucose for this disruption to occur. A blood glucose level of 120 reduces the “phagocytic index” by 75%!
In addition to depressing your immune system, refined sugar lacks minerals and vitamins. For it to be metabolized into your system it must draw upon your body’s micro-nutrient stores which can deplete them. This process impedes the metabolism of cholesterol and free fatty acids leading to higher blood serum triglycerides and cholesterol. In time, this leads to heart disease and obesity and becomes a precursor for diabetes.
Since sugar is devoid of minerals, vitamins, fiber and has such a depressing effect on the endocrine system, major researchers and health organizations such as the American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetic Association, agree that its consumption is one of the 3 major causes of degenerative disease in America.
Sugar and Cancer!
In 1931 Nobel laureate Dr. Otto Warburg discovered that cancer cells use a fundamentally different metabolism pathway to create their energy needs when compared to healthy cells. The basis of his Nobel thesis was that malignant tumors frequently exhibit an increase in anaerobic glycolysis. This metabolic process uses glucose as its primary energy source but without oxygen so that the anaerobic by-product is lactic acid.
Thus glucose feeds the tumor and the end by-product of lactic acid causes the pH of the tumor and surrounding tissue to become acidic. This production of lactic acid also places additional stress on your liver since your liver is used to remove this toxin from your system. Maintaining your acid alkaline balance is one of the keys to preventing degenerative diseases and promoting optimal health.
Cancer therapies should focus on limiting your sugar consumption through diet, supplements, exercise, and/or medication when necessary so that your blood glucose levels are kept in a narrow range. This will help to starve the cancer cells while allowing your immune system to help destroy these cancer cells.
The Devastating Effects!
As we have seen, sugar ages your skin, depresses your immune system and is the preferred fuel of cancer cells. In Dr. Nancy Appleton’s book Lick The Sugar Habit she lists 76 ways it can ruin your health. I’m not going to list all 76 but let me highlight the top 10 that stood out to me:
This is quite a list of health concerns. To help the general public understand which consumable products are high in sugar, the glycemic index was created.
The Glycemic Index!
This index assigns a numbered rating to a food based on how that food affects blood glucose levels. The lower the glycemic index the slower the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. A high rating means that the sugars in that food are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream elevating blood glucose levels above normal. This stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin helps return your blood glucose levels back to normal.
This constant stimulation of the pancreas to secrete insulin is not healthy to your body. It stresses the pancreas. Additionally, insulin inhibits the release of growth hormones which in turn depresses the immune system. Insulin also promotes fat storage.
Reverse the Damage!
As we have noted throughout this article, sugar does more than wrinkle and age your skin. It damages your whole body and prematurely ages you. The good news is that you can begin the process of healing your body, especially your damaged skin by the following five steps:
I could continue to give your additional information on the damaging effects of sugar. It is one of the primary contributors to the aging of your skin and body while creating an environment that fosters degenerative diseases. It is up to you to be proactive to prevent this nasty ingredient from putting a big wrinkle into your health and wellness.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the Anti Aging Skin Care articles below:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.