The Not So Sweet Truth About Sugar!

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Holiday cookies
Tis the season for overeating and packing on a few pounds, it happens to the best of us!   I think we all know sugar is not the best dietary choice but did you know excessive sugar consumption can significantly impact and age our skin. I have written about “glycation” in the past and it has been a hot topic in the aesthetic world over the last several years.  
The body uses sugars as the nutrient source for energy and maintaining cellular health, however, sugars combine with proteins, fat and DNA through a chemical reaction called glycation.  In skin, sugar molecules can bind to proteins such as collagen and eventually form advanced glycation end products (AGEs) through further chemical reactions.  These AGE’s can abnormally crosslink collagen molecules, making them less flexible and ultimately contributing to the appearance of prematurely aged skin.  AGE’s also act as inflammatory cellular signals that produce an enzyme that breaks down collagen.  AGE’s also inactivate the body’s natural antioxidant repair system further making skin more susceptible to damage.  In summary, glycation is ultimately a critical contributor to aging skin because collagen is replaced relatively slowly.
So, how do we fight glycation? First,  glycation can be treated with cosmetic ingredients.  There are two groups of anti-glycation ingredients.  The first group contains molecules that prevent sugars from attacking skin proteins or even reverse the process.  Meglamine, aminoguanidine, arg-lys peptide and carnosine make up the first group of glycation fighting ingredients.  Antioxidants make up the second group and include ingredients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and alpha lipoic acid.  Botanical extracts, such as green tea, gooseberry, grapeseed, blueberry and cranberry are full of polyphenols that have antioxidant activity.
Lastly, one’s diet should be considered in order to reduce glycation.  Avoid highly processed grain products (white flour), processed cereals, full fat, aged cheeses, meats, fish and soy cooked at high heat, chips, crackers, pretzels, sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juice.  Foods that may minimize glycation include minimally processed whole grain products (whole wheat), non-instant and hot cereals, raw nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat, fresh cheese, meats, fish and soy steamed or cooked at low temps, and unsweetened fruit juice and tea.
Glycation-damaged skin has impaired healing properties and so it’s important to avoid harsh professional treatments.  Gentle skin treatments that stimulate collagen and elastin formation are encouraged and non-invasive treatments such as light dermabrasion and light chemical peels may be beneficial.
Julie Vondrak, Master Aesthetician
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