If you think added sugar only leads to weight gain (and all the various issues related to it), it’s a lot farther reaching than that. Our skin is our largest organ, and receives a lot of abuse. Sugar directly impacts the skin, whether you’re talking about cane sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and even sweeteners. When you consume too much sugar, which is common in western countries, it can be very damaging to this large organ—as well as all other organs of the body.
Re-training the palate to enjoy natural sugars, such as those found in fruits and bread or rice (yes, these two starches are naturally sweet) is one of the best things you can do for overall well-being. Sugar is addictive, just like caffeine and alcohol. Sugar can depress our white blood cell activity, which makes us prone to infectious diseases (think the flu) as well as various cancers. There are many potential reasons why cancer diagnoses have skyrocketed in recent decades, and experts believe our dependency on sugar is one of them.
In terms of the skin, sugar is also collagen’s natural enemy. Collagen is naturally produced in the skin and a major factor in what gives us a dewy, plump (in a good way) appearance. However, we naturally produce less collagen as we age. In fact, many youthful procedures stimulate collagen growth in the skin. People pay thousands of dollars for these elective procedures, such as platelet-rich plasma injections. However, by avoiding sugar, you can reduce the odds of losing your natural collagen by avoiding excess sugars.
Glycation is the body’s natural process that reduces collagen. It leads to deep lines, saggy skin, and wrinkles. Extra sugar molecules cling to collagen fibers and weigh them down. Ultimately, this leads to less collagen strength and flexibility. Why speed up the aging process when you don’t have to? All sugars and high-glycemic carbs are turned into glucose in the bloodstream, which is why it’s so important to be careful about consumption amounts.
Wrinkly skin is one of the most obvious signs of excessive sugar causing collagen fibers to fade. The majority of degenerative diseases are exacerbated by glycation reactions. Such reactions may include cataracts, diabetes, the stiffening of arteries, and much more. In other words, sugar impacts much more than the skin—however, the skin is often the first place these issues show.
The body, however, is incredibly intelligent and self-reserving. Alpha lipoic acid, or ALA, fights glycation. It’s made up of strong anti-glycating capabilities along with anti-inflammatory abilities. That’s why it’s so often recommended to be taken both as an oral supplement and topically. ALA boasts fat solubility that can penetrate deep into the skin and put its powers to work. Ultimately, this can help protect cells from the results of free radical damage.
Still, avoiding excessive sugar remains one of the best ways to keep your skin looking young and healthy.