Sugar: Past the Lips and Straight to the….face ?


(How sugar ages your skin)

Recent  health news has brought a lot of attention to the dangers of added sugar in our diets, and we are learning more and more about the damage caused by consuming too many sugary foods and drinks.  Most major diseases and disorders including Alzheimer’s Disease, ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease), heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes  (to name a few) are now thought to be linked to over-consumption of sugar.

According to the website nutrition “the leading cause of disability in the United  States and the leading causes of death are mostly caused by lifestyle, particularly what we put in our mouth.  Food and cigarettes.”

Now I know all of you are already aware of the dangers to our health caused by smoking cigarettes, but what you may  not know is how unhealthy sugar can be. In fact, according to research done by  Dr. Quanhe Yang of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sugar is so bad for us, that  “regularly consuming as little as one sugary fizzy drink a day was associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease.”(from

And we eat lots  of sugar!  Food manufactures put sugar in everything from ketchup to croutons to energy bars and even baby formula.  Even low-fat foods are laden with sugar to replace all the flavor lost when they removed the fat.  And the amounts they add can be  staggering. A 12 ounce can of soda can have as much as 39 grams of sugar. One teaspoon of table sugar contains 4.2 grams of sugar, so one soda would be the equivalent of more than 9 teaspoons of sugar in your drink (the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily ) .  Who does that?  If you were to make a 12 ounce glass of iced tea,  2-3 teaspoons of sugar would make it sweet enough for most people and 9 would most likely make it undrinkable.  So why do they put so much sugar in your soda? To hide the taste of all the salt they add to make you thirsty so you’ll drink more soda.  It’s a vicious cycle, and one we need to stop because it’s making us fat, killing us and making us look older.

The science of how sugar causes damage to our bodies is quite complicated. I suppose that’s why it took so long for science to understand its dangers.  I won’t attempt to give much detail, but a little is required to truly understand the consequences, and what I am talking about here is focused only on the effect of sugar on the skin. I’ll provide a link at the bottom of the page if you would like  to learn more about what sugar is doing  to the rest of your body.

As we age,  a process called glycation causes damage to the protein in the skin. In this process a sugar molecule attaches itself to a protein molecule resulting in the formation of a non-functioning  protein structure called Advanced Glycation End-Products or AGEs. In our skin, the proteins the sugar molecules attach themselves to are collagen and elastin, which are  responsible for giving our skin it’s plump youthful appearance and elasticity.

When AGEs occurs, the fibers become weak, less supple and discolored.  Over time this process leads to more  wrinkles, sagging skin and loss of radiance.  Loss of collagen and elastin is a normal part of aging, and we have to accept that our skin can’t look youthful forever, but when we combine life style choices like smoking, tanning and over exfoliating with excess sugar consumption, it’s a recipe for disaster for our skin! And not only do we have to worry about looking older, AGEs also makes the skin more vulnerable to UV light and cigarette smoke by creating abnormal cells and free radicals both of which are risk factors for skin cancer.

Sugar, particularly glucose (found in pastas and grains ), is a necessary part of our diet and is essential to keep cells functioning.  Every cell in our body uses glucose, it’s the energy of life.  But when we eat too much sugar, from unhealthy sources, our bodies and our skin pay the price!

Learn to make healthy choices when you eat, and you will be taking a big step towards slowing down the aging process.  And don’t think you can substitute by using “healthy” sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, agave, molasses, and even fruit juice (eat the whole fruit, the fiber helps slow down the process).  They may have a small amount of nutritional benefit, but they are still causing the exact same reaction and damage in your skin.

Read food labels, and  be aware of all the names used to indicate added sugars.  The following list will help you recognize hidden sugars:


High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener most of us already know about, because it’s gotten a lot of bad press in the past few years with claims that it’s even more harmful than sugar.  The truth is, when it comes to most of the health related issues of eating sugar, there really is no difference.  Sugar is sugar regardless of where it comes from and it will all make you just as sick.  However,  when it comes to AGEs, research has shown that high fructose corn syrup is 1o times more likely to causes AGESs, than any of the  other sugars we eat.

Trust me, I know how hard it is to give up sugar, but it is truly worth the effort.  You’ll not only look better, you’ll feel better too!  I gave up sugar a few months ago and I feel amazing!  Aches and pains I thought were just a natural result of aging  (I’m 62) have gone away, and I feel more alert and energetic than I have in years.  The first week was difficult, but  I no longer crave sweets, and I know if I can do it, anyone can!

For more  information about the dangers of sugar, click the link below to watch a very enlightening video.  It has some parts that are a bit technical,  but if you stick with it you’ll learn a lot.

Additional resources:


Are There Really Foods that can Trigger Breakouts?


Let me begin by saying that of course you need to maintain a healthy diet to have healthy skin.  All the organs of the body need  high quality  fuel in order to function properly.  For those who generally follow healthy eating habits but experience occasional breakouts or have acne that you blame on chocolate,  fried foods or some other  personal gastronomic  cryptonite, here is some interesting information:

It’s been a common belief among those suffering from acne and breakouts that certain foods can increase the incidence and severity of pimples.  Whether it’s too much chocolate, greasy fast food or some other  overindulgence, eat too much of a “trigger food” and you get pimples.  For most of my career I’ve believed that the only connection between what a person eats and  pimples  is probably not the food, but the stress that triggered the urge to overeat that food, and it’s commonly accepted that stress is a contributing factor for breakouts. The only food I ever felt might contribute to breakouts is dairy. Cows are given hormones to  increase milk production and we do know that certain hormones can be a contributing factor for breakouts and acne.

Turns out I was right. And wrong.

There has been an enormous amount of research focused on a possible link between diet and acne, and the results may surprise you. There does not seem to be any connection between acne and eating chocolate, or fatty foods. Yes that’s right no connection! There is however, evidence that acne can be affected by the consumption of dairy products as well as high-glycemic-index foods like soda, cakes and white bread. (I’ll provide a link at the bottom of this post for a more comprehensive list of high GI foods.) The following is from

  • There exists convincing data supporting the role of dairy products and high-glycemic-index foods in influencing hormonal and inflammatory factors, which can increase acne prevalence and severity. Studies have been inconclusive regarding the association between acne and other foods.
  • Authors of a randomized controlled trial examined the effect of low-glycemic diets on acne risk and insulin sensitivity. Individuals assigned to the low-glycemic diet experienced improvement in the  number of acne lesions, when compared with the control group. In addition, the low-glycemic diet group’s  weight decreased, and insulin sensitivity and SHBG [sex hormone-binding globulin] levels increased. Increases in SHBG levels correlated with decreased lesion counts. These investigative findings support the role of low-glycemic diets in influencing hormonal levels, as well as improving insulin sensitivity and acne.

One particularly interesting aspect of the studies  is the discovery that skim milk was more likely to contribute to acne than whole milk:

  • Authors of a large case-control study evaluated the association between milk and acne in the adolescent diets of more than 47,000 nurses. Among participants who had been diagnosed with severe acne as teenagers, those with the highest level of total milk intake (3 servings per day) reported having acne more frequently, when compared with individuals with the lowest level of intake (serving per week). This association was strongest (a 44% increase) for skim milk intake, suggesting fat content was not the determining factor for acne risk. Researchers hypothesized that the hormones found in milk played a role in acne risk.
  • A study from 2005 showed that components of milk, other than lipids, have insulin-stimulating abilities. Insulin drives insulin-like growth factor, which in turn increases testosterone [ a hormone  associated with increased acne and breakouts].

The conclusion:

  • Although studies are showing a an increased risk for breakouts for those eating dairy and high-glycemic index foods, no study has established a positive association between acne and chocolate, saturated fat, or salt intake.

Good news, and food for thought!


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