Move over, fat — there’s a new bad guy in town when it comes to dietary damage. While people believed for years that fat was the source of many of their woes, from weighing too much to struggling with heart disease, it turns out that, for the most part, fat was just the scapegoat, taking the blame while the real culprit, sugar, got off scot-free.

Not only did sugar get a free pass for all those years, it also got added to more and more foods. Low-fat foods typically have a greater amount of sugar, to make them taste like anything except for cardboard. And the extra sugar in people’s diets has led to higher weight gain in recent years, as well as to increases in conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The icing on the cake is that sugar might not only do damage to a person’s health and weight, it also plays a part in making people’s skin look older prematurely. Get the full story on sugar and find out what you can do to reduce its damage.

What Sugar Can Do to Your Skin

Your skin contains several proteins, namely collagen and elastin, which play a big part in keeping it firm and supple during your youth. As you get older, production of these proteins begins to slow naturally. Certain treatments, such as laser skin resurfacing or injections such as Radiesse, can help stimulate collagen production, making you look younger.

Sugar also plays a part when it comes to collagen and the state of your skin. When you eat sugar, even the sugars found in healthy foods such as whole grains and fruit, a process called glycation occurs. The sugar you ingest travels to your bloodstream, where it starts binding with proteins, including collagen and the elastin. The process makes the collagen and other proteins weak, so that they aren’t able to provide the same level of support to your skin. As a result, signs of aging start to appear, from lines and wrinkles to loose, sagging skin.

One top of weakening the proteins, the newly joined sugar and proteins form advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs. AGEs are generally bad news for your skin’s health, too. They increase inflammation in the skin and make it more vulnerable to other external causes of aging, such as sun exposure or damage from smoking.

Signs of Glycation

How do you know if a lifetime of consuming sugar is beginning to catch up to you? The signs of glycation typically start to appear in the early 30s. If you’ve been a smoker throughout your life, you might notice that your complexion has become more yellow and sallow in tone.

More wrinkles and sagging are two signs of glycation, too, especially if they seem to develop quickly. To add insult to injury, glycation and the formation of AGEs might make any skin issues you’ve dealt with over time worse, or might lead to the development of new skin issues, such as acne or rosacea.

What You Can Do

All isn’t lost if you are concerned about the impact of sugar on your skin’s health and appearance. You can deal with, and even reduce, the effects of glycation in two ways. The first step is to re-evaluate your diet.

While it can be difficult to remove all forms of sugar from your diet, and you may not want to completely eliminate foods like fruits and grains, which also contain a number of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, take a look at the foods you eat that contain added sugar. That includes the obvious, such as sodas and candies, and the less obvious, such as peanut butter and spaghetti sauce. You don’t have to completely eliminate added sugars. Just try to limit extra sugar to about 10 percent of your everyday caloric intake.

Also be aware of the type of sugar you’re eating. While all types add calories to your diet and will cause glycation, it might be that some types are worse than others. High fructose corn syrup, for example, is thought to create more AGEs than standard table sugar. Take a look at the list of ingredients on the foods you’re buying and try to steer clear of any foods that contain high fructose corn syrup.

You can also look for ways to boost your antioxidant intake. While fruits, such as berries, do contain sugar, they are also full of antioxidants, which can help reduce the damage down by AGEs, which are types of free radicals. Along with ingesting those antioxidants, you can also apply them to your skin to get some benefits and to reduce the impact of glycation. Consider a facial that contains vitamins such as vitamin C or start using lotions and serums that contain antioxidants.

In Virginia Beach, Dr. Kyle Choe offers a number of treatments that can help you get a more youthful appearance. He can also answer questions you have about skincare and the impact sugar has on your skin. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Choe, call 757.389.5850 today.