Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

One of the Worst Foods For Your Skin July 5, 2012

Just how bad is sugar for us and for our skin?

According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, writing in the July issue of Prevention magazine, sugar is a potential toxin (page 96):

People think the problem with sugar is that it makes you fat.   But it’s not just inches around your waist.  Sugar is a potential toxin.  The liver becomes fatty, and it starts to release small, dense particles of LDL, which are most damaging kind of blood vessels.  There is also some interesting new data suggesting that a third of some common cancers, including breast and colon cancer, have insulin receptors on them, so you could be fueling indolent cancers.

If that is what sugar does to your body, what does it do to your skin?

The Prevention article Face Facts About Sugar explains:

At blame is a natural process that’s known as glycation, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (or, appropriately, AGEs for short). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. “As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion,” explains Fredric Brandt, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Miami and New York City and author of 10 Minutes 10 Years. Most vulnerable to damage: collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic. In fact, collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These aging effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Besides damaging collagen, a high-sugar diet also affects what type of collagen you have–another factor in how resistant skin is to wrinkling, says Brandt. The most abundant collagens in the skin are types I, II, and III, with type III being the most stable and longest lasting. Glycation transforms type III collagen into type I, which is more fragile. “When that happens, the skin looks and feels less supple,” says Brandt. The final blow: AGEs deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving you more vulnerable to sun damage–still the main cause of skin aging.

According to the article How giving up sugar can take 20 years off your looks from The Daily Mail:

…  a direct link has been established between the amount of sugar circulating in the blood and how old a person looks. Scientists from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and Unilever in the UK, measured the blood sugar levels of 600 men and women aged between 50 and 70.

They then showed photographs of these people to a board of 60 independent assessors and found that those with higher blood sugar looked older than those with lower blood sugar. In fact for every 1mm/litre increase in blood sugar, the perceived age of that person rose by five months.

‘We took into account other factors such as whether or not that person smoked and yet still the effects were clear — the higher the blood glucose, the older the person looked,’ says Dr David Gunn, a senior scientist at Unilever who helped conduct the trial.

‘Those who looked the oldest of all were the diabetics in the group. Because of their condition, they will have had the high levels of glucose for a long period of time.’ The skin experts agree. A diet high in sugar is a disaster for the face.

‘There is no point in spending lots of money on expensive skin creams if you are eating a diet high in sugar,’ says Dr Aamer Khan, a cosmetic dermatologist who is also medical director of the Harley Street Skin Clinic. ‘Yes, you can protect and moisturise your skin from the outside with creams, but you need to feed and stimulate the growth of good strong skin cells from inside too and sugar will sabotage that.’

Are there any skincare products or ingredients out there that might help slow down this glycation process?  It turns out that scientists and cosmetic chemists are working on it:

Skin care too makes a difference. Scientists have been on the hunt for potent antiglycation agents since the ’80s, when biochemist Anthony Cerami, PhD, found that aminoguanidine molecules block glucose-collagen pairs from forming, but products containing viable AGE fighters only began to appear on the market about five years ago with the introduction of Brandt’s Lineless range. Now that glycation is widely recognized as a major cause of aging, lots of comprehensive anti-aging creams contain AGE fighters too. Superstar multitasker green tea has been proven to significantly interfere with the glycation process while stimulating collagen synthesis—so if you’re using a product containing green tea (or drinking it regularly), you’re already protecting your skin. “Anything that stimulates the fibroblasts to build new collagen is going to help eradicate damage,” Brandt says, noting that retinoids and some dermal fillers fall into this category. “Since your body has a process where old collagen is broken down by enzymes and new collagen is generated, what’s going to happen is that the old glycated collagen will eventually be eliminated and replaced by un-glycated collagen.”

(From Sugar and Aging: How to Fight GlycationElle)

I’ve been trying to cut back on sugar for over two years now, and I struggle with it on a daily basis.  I have finally admitted to myself that I have a sugar addiction.  If you are thinking that it is time to start cutting back on sugar keep in mind that sugar is hidden in all sorts of ready made foods, condiments, and processed foods besides the obvious desserts and baked goods.  I know from my personal experience that trying to limit my sugar intake has been next to impossible.  I started by cutting out my teaspoon of sugar in my coffee in the morning, and I try to eat small amounts of dessert when I have dessert, but I do still crave sweets.  I see how much my four and a half year-old son loves sweets, and I realize that our sugar addictions start very early.

One last thing – just how much sugar should the average person consume in a day (if you really need to have sugar)?  According to the Prevention article Face Facts About Sugar:

Keep added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. If you’re a 45-year-old woman of average height (5-foot-4), that’s 160 calories (or 10 teaspoons) from added sugar–about the number in one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola or six Hershey’s Kisses. By comparison, the average American consumes 31 teaspoons per day of added sugar, or the equivalent of 465 calories.

Watch for hidden sugar in food. Many prepared foods contain hefty amounts of sugar–but it’s hidden under aliases–including barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, and turbinado–on ingredient panels. The key is determining how many teaspoons of sugar each serving contains. Doing this is easy: Check the nutrition label for sugars, which are listed in grams under total carbohydrates, and then divide that number by 4 (each teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 g) to convert it to teaspoons. For example, if sugars are listed as 12 g, you’re getting 3 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Avoid high fructose corn syrup. This type of sweetener, which is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose (another form of sugar), is believed to produce more AGEs than other types. Because HFCS extends the shelf life of foods and is sweeter and cheaper than other sugars, it’s a popular ingredient in soda, fruit-flavored drinks, and packaged foods such as breads, crackers, and other snacks. You can spot it in ingredient lists on nutrition labels.

Limiting our sugar consumption will help both our bodies and our skin.  Certainly if we can drastically cut down on the amount of sugar we consume we’ll be much healthier.  Good luck to everyone out there trying to limit their sugar intake!

My Related Post:

Lots More Reading about How Bad Sugar Is For You (if you are so inclined to keep reading about this topic):

Image from healthytimesblog.com

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Is A Vegetarian Or Vegan Diet Bad For Your Skin? April 12, 2012

I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and have no plans to start eating meat any time soon, so could that mean I am hurting my skin instead of helping it?  Truthfully I didn’t think that the lack of animal protein in my diet was hurting my skin at all until I read the following post from esthetician Renee Rouleau on her blog:

From working with skin hands-on as an esthetician and skin care expert for over twenty years, I have to say that I most definitely have seen similarities in the skin of people who have a vegan diet versus those who are not. What I have noticed is a dull, tired, sallow look to the skin, similar to that of a heavy smoker’s skin, as well as a premature loss of skin tone. By no means am I knocking someone’s choice to live a vegan lifestyle, I’m simply sharing my observations and thoughts.

Because a vegan diet consists of mainly fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains, those that follow it may have trouble getting enough protein—the building blocks for skin. Protein is an essential component that makes up cells in the epidermis, including collagen and elastin fibers to keep skin firm and smooth.

Many vegans rely on beans and soy as their main source of protein, but protein that comes from fish, poultry and meat may be more complete and therefore make for a better effect for the appearance…

Now I am not going to argue with Rouleau’s hands on experience and observations about how people’s skin who follow a vegan diet looks because of her experience and expertise (and on a side note, the more I read of Rouleau’s blog the more I like her and her advice, usually), but I can go by my experience being a vegetarian for a long time and I certainly can research this topic – which I did.  Though Rouleau mentions specifically an issue with vegan’s skin, vegan’s do not eat any animal protein or any food derived from animal sources like eggs, dairy, or honey, I chose to tackle this question by looking at both a vegetarian (a vegetarian will eat dairy, honey, and eggs) and vegan diets as well.

I found it really interesting that a lack of animal protein in someone’s diet would influence how their skin looks since you can get enough protein in your diet from dairy, eggs, and legumes (not to mention certain grains as well like quinoa).  Making a statement that a person needs animal protein in their diet for good skin – is that just an anti-vegetarian or vegan bias?  I have to admit that the minute I read Rouleau’s post I got a little defensive about my vegetarian diet and how my skin looks, and I really wanted to research this topic further.

Yes, Protein Is Important But You Don’t Need Meat

A well balanced diet is key to both having and maintaining great skin, but a well balanced diet means that you eat a wide variety of foods from many sources not just animal sources.  I looked through my various books at home and searched online in order to see if others agreed with Rouleau’s statement that consuming animal protein was necessary for building collagen.  I only found one other source that said the same thing.  Mostly my research yielded the similar lists of foods that promote great skin and good health like a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil, lean protein like fish, poultry, tofu, and legumes, and whole grains.  When it comes to building collagen in the skin, in particular, New Beauty suggests eating the following foods:

Boost your body’s collagen with the following eight foods:

1. Water-rich vegetables like cucumber and celery have a high sulfur content, which is important in collagen production. Collagen can’t be produced if sulfur isn’t present.
2. Fish creates stronger cells. Fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Skin cells are surrounded by a fatty membrane that protects them. When the cells are healthy, they are able to support the structure of the skin.
3. Soy blocks aging. Whether sourced from soymilk, cheese or tofu, soy contains genistein (plant hormones that serve as antioxidants), which prompts collagen production and helps to block enzymes, like MMPs, that can age the skin.
4. Red vegetables are a natural form of SPF. Tomatoes, peppers and beets contain the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene protects the skin from damage while increasing collagen levels, acting as a natural sun block.
5. Dark green vegetables, rich in vitamin C, like spinach and kale, rev up collagen production. In topical products, vitamin C stabilizes messenger enzymes that break down collagen. It also prevents weak collagen by protecting against free radicals.
6. Berries ward off damage. Blackberries and raspberries scavenge free radicals while simultaneously increasing collagen levels.
7. White tea supports structure. According to research conducted by Kingston University and Neal’s Yard Remedies, white tea may protect the structural proteins of the skin, specifically collagen. It’s believed to prevent enzyme activity that breaks down collagen, contributing to lines and wrinkles.
8. Orange vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes, are rich in vitamin A, which restores and regenerates damaged collagen

So while an animal protein does show up on this list there are plenty of other options as well for building collagen.  Dermatologist Nicole Rogers, MD, on WebMD, answers the question about what to eat in order to prevent wrinkles thusly:

Question:

What kind of foods should I include in my diet to prevent wrinkles?

Answer:

It’s helpful to ingest foods that are high in antioxidants. These foods can help absorb the free radicals created in your body by UV light exposure, which can break down collagen and create fine lines and wrinkles. Foods high in antioxidants include dark berries such as blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Beans are also high in antioxidants, including red beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans. Also, drinks that may be helpful include green tea, red wine, and coffee, all in moderation of course.

No mention here either of having to eat animal protein.

I also turned to Dr. Carl Thornfeldt in his book The New Ideal in Skin Health to see what he had to say about diet and aging (pages 445-446):

It is well known that a poor diet contributes to exacerbation and severity of skin lesions, preventing proper healing and reducing remission time.  The blame has been directed at many different types of food, and while many of those claims are not valid, a healthy and balanced diet certainly can make a huge impact to one’s skin.  Beginning in elementary school, Americans are taught to eat according to the FDA four food groups that has been upgraded to become the Food Pyramid.  However, most people do not actually follow those guidelines.  To help with overall skin health, the reduction of sugar consumption is critical and should be the first step.  Incorporating at least one additional serving of preferably fresh fruits and vegetables a day is also an effective way to improve overall health that corresponds directly to the health of one’s skin.

Furthermore, Dr. Thornfeldt points out that there is an ingredient that is widely and universally consumed that is ruining our health (and aging us by causing inflammation):

Refined White Sugar is Nutritional Public Enemy #1

The least popular recommendation I make is to avoid refined sugar.  When raw sugar – from sources such as sugar cane or sugar beet – is bleached so that only the pure sucrose is left, it is called “refined sugar.”  Refined sugar is what you would buy in the store as white sugar.  Refined white sugar is nutritional health public enemy #1 because it activates the glycation inflammatory pathway and stimulates excess insulin production by its high glycemic index, which is the speed of raising blood glucose levels, inducing an insulin spike.  This leads to further destructive inflammation.  Corn syrup contains fructose, which consists of a glucose and galactose.  Galactose has a lower glycemic index with slower absorption.  Brown sugar, molasses and honey all contain more complex sugars and proteins, thus improving the relative nutritional value as well as reducing the glycemic index.  (page 450)

In my opinion, and from the reading that I have done, I would call out sugar as a bigger collagen destroyer than not eating animal protein.  I struggle with my own addiction to sugar and keep trying to cut down on my sugar consumption in order to preserve my skin.  It’s hard.

Bottom Line:  in order to keep your skin looking youthful limit your refined sugar consumption and eat a balanced diet filled with lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (from any source), and whole grains.

Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

Image from www.ithappensinindia.com

 

 
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