Bitter Sweet

Every year one strong underlying theme prevails in our list of New Year resolutions… the enduring quest to lose weight.  I agree that it is great to be healthier, but what I notice happens in our attempt to shed kilos is that our poor friend “Fat” becomes tarnished Enemy Number One. In the pursuit of good health, it appears we have condemned the wrong culprit. For it’s that nasty vixen “Sugar” that should have us concerned with her sweet shiny appeal and smoke and mirror tactics.

Here’s what I know about that temptress “Sugar”. She is not just about weight gain and empty calories. Alarmingly, sugar is one of the leading causes of premature ageing for our skin. Did you know that blood sugar levels are a strong indicator as to how your skin will age?  To understand this better let’s take a closer look to see how sugar interacts with our body.

The science behind this is pretty straight forward. Sugar converts to glucose. Glucose is used to fuel the body. Fairly simple, right? But from here it starts to get a little bit ugly. Excess sugar molecules do not play nicely with our body’s cells. Instead they latch themselves in a most unwelcome but tenacious way to the proteins in our skins structure. This process is known as glycation.

Healthy supple skin is rich in the proteins that create our skins matrix, our good friends, Collagen and Elastin. This matrix of protein fibres gives structure, elasticity and strength to our skin keeping it firm and plump. Through the process of glycation AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End Products) are produced through sugar molecules bonding with proteins. The unyielding vice like grip from glucose causes protein fibres to lose their elasticity. Instead they become hard and rigid, weakening the matrix and the skins structure.

Healthy supple skin is rich in the proteins that create our skins matrix, our good friends, Collagen and Elastin. This matrix of protein fibres gives structure, elasticity and strength to our skin keeping it firm and plump.

Think of it like this.  The process of glycation is not unlike the way we sear a piece of meat. The process of browning meat to maximise flavour and seal in moisture is scientifically known as the ‘Maillard Reaction’. This is the exact same chemical process that takes place in our body tissues when we expose them to excess sugars. Glucose slowly ‘cooks’ the body to speed the ageing process. And skin is just the beginning. Glycobiology is researching the effects of excess sugar on cognition and brain function, organ damage, chronic disease, malaria and all types of cancer.

What’s the answer? Apart from a tricky operation known as the “Bakery By-Pass”, we should probably also avoid most of the aisles at the local supermarket. Remember, sugar comes in the form of simple and complex carbohydrates, which means foods containing processed grains (flour), cereals and sweeteners should be limited and replaced with good oils and fats, fresh vegetables, legumes, good cheese (I’m so in!), eggs, seeds and protein… and maybe just the very occasional artisan gelato?

A diet rich in antioxidants helps combat the stress and damage caused by AGE’s. They help to neutralise the effects of glycation within the skin. It is not only important to consume foods rich in antioxidants but to seek these ingredients in our skincare.  Green and white tea, dark skinned fruit and berries along with vitamins A, C, B and E all work together to combat the effects and protect the skin. Essential oils are powerful free radical fighters and are the foundation for all effective anti-ageing skincare.  Ensure your products are rich in vitamins and the active ingredients are profiled well on the label listing.

But first, I’m sorry to say, please put down that cupcake! Happy New Year x

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