By Arlyn Hernandez
Moisturizers, serums, eye creams, emulsions – you name it, I have it in my medicine cabinet. If my personal apothecary says anything at all about the number one beauty concern I’m sure I share with most woman over the age of….well, let’s just leave it at most women…it’s that I’m nearing the point of obsession with keeping my skin looking as youthful as time will allow. In my mind, what I put on my face was certainly the ticket to my personal fountain of youth.
However, recent studies are showing that perhaps it’s not just what we put on our skin, but rather in our bodies, that have the greatest affects on our supple visages. And what’s the main culprit this time around? Sugar. I know, I know. Unless you have a massive amount of self-control (yeah, right) then ridding your diet of everything worth living for – brownies, cookies, French pastries – may be a futile effort. However, being equipped with the need-to-know information can assist in our war against the evil wrinkle. As always, we’re here to help.
The proof is in the pudding…
So, how exactly does sugar negatively affect our skin? Blame something called glycation. According to Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D., a celebrated Manhattan-based dermatologist, glycation occurs when sugar molecules bind to protein in the blood and tissues, creating advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). These AGEs interfere with proper functioning of the proteins (like collagen), which causes cross-linking in the extracellular skin matrix. Simply put? AGEs cause stiffened tissues, wrinkled skin and as their acronym ironically suggests, aging.
My first question when hearing this information was how much the glycation process actually ages our skin. We asked registered dietician Jennifer Haas, MS, RD, of the Nova Medical Group for her input. Her answer? Forty to fifty percent of our skin’s maturing is caused by glycation. Yes, that sounds pretty scary. AGEs actually impair the body’s ability to produce and utilize antioxidants, which rid our bodies of free radicals – some of the main perpetrators in premature aging.
To eat or not to eat…
All hope is not lost, however. Just because you indulge in an occasional sweet treat, or big starchy bowl of white pasta doesn’t mean you’ll instantly prune up. There are some foods that are the worst offenders, and some that are preventative superstars. Below is a list of nutritional do’s and don’ts, courtesy of dermatologists Dr. Nicholas Perricone and Dr. Ladan Shahabi.
– Sugar in all it’s forms (corn syrup, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar)
– Processed foods
– White bread and pasta
– Pastries and baked goods
– Snack foods such as rice and corn cakes, chips, pretzels
– Red meats
– Fruit juices (they raise your blood sugar much quicker than the fruit itself)
– Sodas and beer
(Though you’re probably reading this list and thinking that it picks out just about everything enjoyable, remember – everything in moderation.)
– Foods high in vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione and other antioxidants: sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, wheat germ, all citrus fruits, guavas, strawberries, acai, pomegranates, blueberries, peppers, leafy greens, asparagus, avocado, broccoli.
– Low-glycemic level foods: whole grains, such as old-fashioned oatmeal, legumes such as beans and lentils, and colorful fruits and vegetables.
– Foods high in MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids): cold water fish, especially wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, etc., olive oil, nuts seeds.
– High quality protein (poultry, shellfish, tofu.)
– 8-10 glasses of water daily
– Anti-oxidant rich green tea.
The resounding answer…
If there was one piece of advice that all of our dermatologists and nutritionists alike offered up on preventing premature aging, it was controlling your sugar cravings, upping antioxidant use inside the body, avoiding overexposure to the sun, and drinking plenty of water. Topical retinoids, ascorbic acids and products with vitamin C Ester are also weapons in the war against time. So, the next time you’re faced with a crucial dilemma – cheesecake or fruit cup – remember that the after affects of the processed and refined bombed that is the cheesecake is showing up on more than just your buns and thighs.