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Does Sugar Give You Wrinkles?
by Victoria Kirby
From Harpers Bazaar - 2006-02-01

Victoria Kirby explores the latest finding on how sweets can accelerate aging

How can sugar affect the skin?

When you eat a diet rich in sugar and other high-glycemic starchy carbohydrates (breads, potatoes, baked goods, pastas, desserts, and soads), the foods rapidaly convert to glucose in your bloodstream. An overload can trigger a reaction called glycation, in which the excess sugar molecules attach themselves to collagen fibers, which in turn lose strenght and flexibility, so skin becomes less elastic and more vulnerable to sun damage, lines and sagging. Sugar and starchy foods can also spike your blood-sguar levels and interact with cells to produce harmful wastes known as advanced glycosylation end products--approximately abbreviated AGES--which increase inflammation in the body, further damaging cells, collagen and elastin. (Worth noting: Though experts stand behind these claims, theere have been no controlled human studies to date showing the effects of sugar on the skin.)

Could all forms of sugar contribute to wrinkles?

Yes, but some docctors say only when it is consumed in excess. However, "any amount of sugar and starch can cause a spike in your blood sugar, which will result in glycation," says Nicholas Perricone, M.D., a New York dermatologist who has resarched the link between sugar and aging. To reduce glycation, Perricone suggests "eating low-glycemic carbohydrates and having your protein first." For a quick sweet fix, munch on fruit--"its fiber helps slow the body's absorption of the sugar, which prevents a surge in glucose levels and curbs cravings. But have some protein beforehand" to avoid a sharp increase in blood sugar. Be wary of other "natural" sweets, such as honey, maple syrup, and pure cane sugar, which rapiidly metabolize and may lead to glycation.

What foods should you cut back on to try to stay young looking?

Processed carbohydrates, starches and sugar-based foods, which include everything from candy to chips to cakes, says David Orentreich, M.D. (212-606-0800), a Manhattan dermatologist who consults for Clinique. "These are refined foods that metabolize quickly, leading to excess blood sugar," he explains. Up your intake of fiber and protein, both of which decrease the rate at which your body absorbs sugar.

How much sugar is too much?

Some say no more than six to ten teaspoons per day, rougly the equivalent of an eight-ounce cup of ice cream. To find out how much you're consuming, check the nutrition-facts label on food and drinks. Sugar content is listed under "total carbohydrates" and is measured in grams; four grams equal one teaspoon. Pay attention to serving sizes, multiply the amount of sugar accordingly.

Are artificial sweeteners better?

Not necessarily, warns Perricone: "While they do not trigger glycation, we don't know their effects on the body." For sugar substitutes he recommends natural alternatives such as agave and stevia--a no calorie herb with a sweet taste, sold in health food stores--since they will not raise glucose levels.

How can you control your tough sugar cravings?

Orentreich cautions against food labeled fat-free. They are usually high in sugar and calories and don't satisfy the hunger for sweets as much as a small portion of something with fat. "Fats burn slowly, giving you a sense of satiety that lasts longer," he notes. Perricone advises occasionally indulging in a half cup of natural ice cream after a meal, when the absorption of the sugar will be slower.


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