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

Sugar-Lips-Fruit_tn2

(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 facts.org “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 http://www.foodnavigator.com/)

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:

sugar

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.

http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=16717

Additional resources:

http://www.aging-no-more.com/advanced-glycation-end-products.html

http://www.elle.com/beauty/makeup-skin-care/sugar-aging-how-to-fight-glycation-614621

http://www.skininc.com/skinscience/physiology/16183132.html

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Please Don’t Exercise Your Face!

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If you made a  New Year’s  resolution to start an exercise program, good for you!  Exercise has enormous health benefits, and I applaud your efforts and wish you great success. But a word of caution, please don’t include facial exercises as part of your fitness program. They could do more harm than good.

 There are many great reasons to exercise: stronger muscles, improved cardiovascular health, increased bone density and weight loss are just a few of the benefits of exercise. And, exercise can help  improve the appearance of the skin:

  • Exercise can reduce stress by lowering stress producing hormones and release “feel good” endorphins in the brain. If you have read any of my previous posts about stress you know how damaging it can be to your skin.  Acne, eczema, sensitivity, dryness, dullness, and premature aging, are a few of the skin problems that can be exacerbated by stress. Committing to regular exercise program will help keep stress in check, and you’ll feel and look better.
  • Exercise also promotes healthy circulation which, according to dermatologist, Dr. Ellen Marmur will keep your skin healthy and vibrant. “By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keeps them vital.  Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to working cells throughout the body, including the skin. In addition to providing oxygen, blood flow also helps carry away waste products and free radicals from working cells.”

So whatever form of exercise you choose, running, weight lifting, pilates, yoga or swimming, your skin will reap the rewards as well. But, if you think facial exercises will help prevent aging and make you look younger, you should know that the  idea that it is possible to “develop” the muscles in your face in order to “push out the wrinkles” (as stated on the website carolynsfacialfitness.com) is just wrong.

I love the idea of facial exercises as a way to improve your appearance. After all, my focus is on natural ways to take care of your skin, and what could be more natural than exercise.  However, my gut instinct and everything I know about skin tells me no, no, no!   

First, let’s talk about why we need to exercise:

  • Quite simply, we exercise because we no longer engage in the types of daily physical activities our ancestors performed, that kept their muscles strong and in peak condition. Their daily routine included running, lifting, carrying heavy loads, and pushing and pulling heavy objects.  Our lives have become quite sedentary; we spend much of our time in front of the TV or computer. So we go to the gym to lift weights, run on a treadmill, do pilates, yoga and zumba to replicate the movements that were once a regular part of our lives.
  • But never in the history of mankind have we ever used the muscles of the face for anything other than what we use them for today!  Talking, chewing, blinking, smiling, frowning and other facial expressions have not changed over the years, and we use the muscles of our face exactly the same way our primitive ancestors did.  Our bodies may have become more sedentary, but our faces have not!  We don’t need to do “facial exercises” because we have not stopped using our facial muscles.

Still not convinced?  Let’s look at how exercise works:

  • According to my friend Mickey Glick, Personal Trainer and owner of Body and Soul Fitness Studio, to effectively build our muscles requires movement, resistance and challenge.  In other words, we have to engage our muscles (movement) while holding, pushing or pulling something that has weight (resistance), and we need to increase the weight (challenge) as the movement becomes easier. I have no idea how it would be possible to use your face to do resistance exercises.  Maybe attach weights to facial piercings?  The images that invokes are quite disturbing!

Maybe you’re thinking, but wait, I’m doing exercises to “tone” my facial muscles, not build them. If by toning you mean using repeated movement in order to keep them from becoming weak and flabby, just think about how often you use your facial muscles every day.  In fact, the busiest muscles of the body are the ones responsible for blinking, which we do about 100,000  times a day.  Funny, all that “exercising” and we are still plagued with “crows feet” Hmm…

 Here’s the real reason we develop lines, wrinkles and sagging skin: 

  • Slowed collagen and elastin production
  • Decreased cellular regeneration
  • Loss of underlying fat
  • Thinning skin 
  • Lengthening of ligaments 
  • Gravity 
  • Facial expressions and movement

facial-muscles-and-wrinkles

“The effects of aging on the dermal layer [where collagen and elastin are found] are significant. Not only does the dermal layer thin, but also less collagen is produced, and the elastin fibers that provide elasticity wear out.  These changes in the scaffolding of the skin cause the skin to wrinkle and sag.”
http://dermatology.about.com/cs/beauty/a/wrinklecause.htm

From Dr. Marmur:

“Loss of elasticity and volume, decreased collagen, elastin and even bone and gravity all act to alter the symmetry of the face over time. The dissolving extracellular matrix, is similar to a once-fluffy down pillow that eventually flattens and loses its shape.”    

It’s the loss of the cushiony layers of the skin that give the face fullness and shape that are responsible for lines and wrinkle, not the condition of your facial muscles. In fact, the use of those muscles is a key player in the formation of lines and wrinkles. Remember when you’re mother told you to stop making faces because your face could freeze like that?  Well she was right! Our facial muscles are the only muscles in the body that are attached directly to the skin and as a result when they contract, the skin moves. It’s this skin movement combined with other factors such as sun exposure, smoking, poor diet, chronological aging and gravity that are responsible for lines and wrinkles. In fact a common treatment for lines and wrinkles is Botox, which works by weakening the muscles, allowing the skin to relax and the lines to smooth out.

The following is from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com:

“Facial expressions – people who repeatedly smile, frown, or squint will develop fine lines and wrinkles earlier than others who do not do these facial expressions so often. According to the Mayo Clinic, each time we use a facial muscle a groove forms under the surface of the skin. When you are young the skin springs back, but as it gets older and loses its flexibility springing back becomes harder and less frequent, resulting in more permanent grooves.”                                      

And from http://www.webmd.com:

“Smiling–along with squinting, frowning and other repetitive facial expressions makes fine lines and wrinkles more prominent over time because skin loses elasticity as we age.  And those facial exercises some of us do to try to improve muscle tone?  They actually have the opposite effect.”

Aging is inevitable, and the last thing you want to do is engage in practices that can speed up the process.  You may not be able to stop smiling, laughing and frowning, but you can make the choice not to do facial exercises. And hey, who doesn’t want a good excuse not to exercise!

Resources:

“Simple Skin Beauty”- Dr. Ellen Marmur

Mickey Glick- http://www.bsfstudio.com

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