This is going to be hard to hear, but the truth is, for those of us working to combat the aging process, sugar is a formidable enemy. I know it tastes really good and we’re conditioned to love it, but unfortunately, the sweet stuff pillages our skin’s elasticity. What’s even worse is that pigging out on sugar can make us deathly ill and dangerously fat. Sorry folks, but we’ve had our fun fling with sugar; time to kick it to the curb.
Let’s be real though, most of us (myself included) will never be able to get over sugar entirely. We’re going to creep back to it, ’cause the stuff is just so good. But, we really have to learn to keep it to minimum if we care about our health and youth. Here’s why: Sugars (ALL sugars, even natural sweeteners like agave, honey, and maple syrup) raise our blood glucose level. Natural sugars are a little better for us, because they raise it less, or more slowly, and they do contain some nutrients (white sugar has none), but, all sugars raise the blood sugar level and that is a problem…
According to anti-aging specialist Dr. Nicolas Perricone, a spike in our blood sugar level causes inflammation on a cellular level, which causes our skin to wrinkle. Did he say wrinkle? Sugar gives us wrinkles? Yes, it does. Time for us to drop the donuts. Back away from the Krispy Kreme.
Dr. Perricone is hardly alone in his assertion about sugar and wrinkles. Because I read books and articles on anti-aging as frequently as most of us check Facebook and Twitter, I know that many of the anti-aging doctors including Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Howard Murad, Dr. Jessica Wu and Dr. Adrienne Denese advise us to avoid sugar. Dr. Wu, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, says: “Glucose actually eats away at your skin’s collagen and elastin.” The horror.
Here’s the science behind the claim: When our blood sugar spikes quickly and repeatedly, the sugar attaches to the proteins (collagen and elastin) in our skin, rendering them stiff and inflexible. This process is called “glycation.” These harmful sugar molecules form compounds called “advanced glycation end-products,” or AGEs. As these “AGEs” accumulate they damage adjacent proteins, which leads to sagging skin, and wrinkles.
This is sad news for those of us who just can’t go without something sweet. I’m sorry, but life is not worth living without my daily dark chocolate! (It’s okay, we can indulge in a little.) But, if you’re serious about staying young-looking, even as you move into middle-age, you have got to consider cutting back your sugar intake considerably. Now, you might be saying some of the same things I said myself at first: “I’m not gonna worry about this. I have good genes. My mother ate sugar and she still looks good. Black don’t crack.” I hear you. If wrinkles aren’t enough to get you off the sweet stuff, though, I’ve got more for you and the news gets worse.
In April of 2011, The New York Times published an article called “Is Sugar Toxic?” written by Gary Taubes. The article discussed the work of a hormone specialist, Dr. Robert Lustig, who presented a lecture in 2009 called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which I highly recommend. You can find it on Youtube. Lustig’s research concludes that sugar is, indeed, toxic and that it is not only aging us, it’s making us sick and fat. His evidence, which includes statistics on diabetes and obesity levels since the “low fat” craze began, is compelling. Processed “fat free” foods generally contain more sugar, which helps make them taste better after all the delicious fat has been removed. Sugar and its evil twin High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is ubiquitous in processed foods and beverages, is not just bad for us; according to Lustig, it’s a POISON akin to alcohol and cigarettes.
I knew that too much sugar could contribute to diabetes, but Lustig’s research found that sugar consumption also leads to heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers as well. Astonishing, isn’t it? If I didn’t know people who’ve had heart disease, hypertension and cancer I might be disinclined to believe this. But knowing the dietary habits of friends and family who have been victims of these conditions makes me less skeptical. Each of them ate sugar with abandon. Another surprising and disheartening thing I learned via Lustig is that fruit juice isn’t as good for us as we thought. Whole fruit is much better than juice, because whole fruit contains fiber which helps keep it from suddenly spiking our blood sugar level. Fruit juice has a lot of sugar, with no fiber to mitigate it. Too much of it can raise the blood glucose level as fast as regular sugar.
Even if you aren’t convinced of the correlation between sugar and diseases, the fact that it speeds up the aging process has been accepted in the anti-aging community well before Lustig’s 2009 lecture. Doctors overwhelmingly agree that sugar and HFCS cause inflammation and inflammation is an enemy to our skin. Omitting sugar from our diets entirely is probably never going to happen, because even fruits, vegetables and whole grains turn to glucose (the type of sugar that fuels glycation) when digested. And we’re never giving up chocolate, right? Of course not. But we can cut back.
An article in Prevention, written by Karen Repinski recommends the following guidelines: “Keep added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. If you’re a 45-year-old woman of average height (5-foot-4), that’s 160 calories (or 10 teaspoons) from added sugar–about the number in one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola or six Hershey’s Kisses. By comparison, the average American consumes 31 teaspoons per day of added sugar, or the equivalent of 465 calories.” So, if you’re among those who can’t live without regular sugar, follow her guidelines. Processed sugar doesn’t do it for me, because it’s got no health benefits at all, but I do like honey, maple syrup and agave, so I’m trying to stick to no more than 160 calories per day from those.
I also recommend Stevia, which is a natural sweetner (made from a plant) that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. Stevia has very few calories and it’s recommend by Dr. Wu, author of Feed Your Face, and also by by Dr. Howard Murad, author of The Water Secret. Other than Stevia, most anti-aging specialists do not recommend artificial sweeteners, like Equal, because the chemicals in them cause us to crave sweets.
Here are some recommendations:
1. Read labels and check for sugar in prepared foods. Don’t eat foods that contain high fructose corn syrup. This is easier said than done, because it’s in so many things, but if you eat fewer processed foods and more whole foods, you can avoid it.
2. Consider omitting sodas from your diet. Instead drink water, carbonated water with a splash of lemon or lime, tea, or coconut water.
3. Stop adding processed sugar to food and beverages. Replace it with honey, agave or maple syrup, but use the least amount your taste buds will allow.
4. Drink less fruit juice (which is all sugar, no fiber) and eat the whole fruit instead. Or make smoothies from low sugar fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
5. Eat fewer high glycemic carbohydrates like white flour, white rice and pasta. Instead, eat whole grains, like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa or whole wheat pasta.
Sorry to have been the bearer of bad news. The fact that sugar is so damaging to us is hard to accept. Sugar has comforted us throughout our lives and it’s immensely difficult to revise our view of it and to curb our habit of consuming it without worry. Still, knowledge is power and it is empowering to know the consequences of what we feed ourselves.
That said, I’m not suggesting that we live joyless, abstemious lives never eating anything fun and sweet. Just cut back and eat less sugar. You know you’ll be better off if you do, even if you’d rather not hear it.
Wishing you good health and great beauty.
For many more anti-aging tips, please check out my book, VIBRATING YOUTH available on Amazon in paperback or as an ebook. And please follow me on twitter @Vibratingyouth and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vibrating-Youth/291243730912385 www.vibratingyouth.com