What’s wrong with sugar?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 January 2016

How bad is sugar really?

How bad is sugar really?

(C) 2009 Jupiterimages

Why is sugar bad for you? We found the scientific reason why sugar is bad for us

You may remember in our December health feature we focused on carbs, in particular the good and bad types. Those bad types included refined foods such as white bread, pasta, and white rice (the high GI carbs) as well as the obvious cakes and biscuits. But what we touch upon in more depth here is the way in which the body processes these food types because they are effectively sugars, and our bodies react in much the same way as eating a bag of jelly babies.

As soon as we eat sugar a process called ‘glycation’ is triggered. When this happens, the sugar molecules bind to our protein fibres (our lovely springy, resilient collagen and elastin fibres that are the building blocks of the skin) and attack them. This makes them brittle and less elastic so they break; the skin then starts to sag and looks older.

While this degradation process is bad enough, it gets worse. There is a multitude of so-called ‘scientific’ information used in marketing text for anti-aging products and one you may have come across is ‘the ability to combat AGE’s’. Most of us gloss over this kind of information with the notion that science=good but what does it actually mean?

The appliance of science

We shall endeavour to explain! When the glycation process is triggered by sugar, the original skin proteins are not only attacked, they also mutate creating harmful new molecules. These are the AGE’s (advanced glycation end-products) which go on to cause further inflammation and damage to our collagen and elastin.

You will know when your skin proteins have degraded, it’s when the skin stops springing back to its original state (for example, after you smile) and fine lines and wrinkles start to appear. Once this happens you are pretty much stuck with them.

Of course we could all take the view that this is exactly what fillers are created for but isn’t it far better to nourish your skin in the right way and avoid the pitfalls in later life? After all we still don’t really know enough about the long term effects of many cosmetic procedures.

We’re not saying you should never have another sweet treat (especially when there is that post-Christmas tub of Quality Street still half full), but be aware of the effects of sugar are more far reaching than just our waistlines. Also be aware of sugar types, honey is often hyped as a great alternative but your body will process it in exactly the same way; the same goes for syrups and fructose found in fruit.

After the season of decadence the final word must surely go to alcohol. Yes there are many claims to the health benefits of a glass of red, but remember alcohol in any form is effectively sugar with 50% more calories. So if you’ve joined the January ‘dryathon’ you may be spurred on by the fact that the average drinker will give up around 57 units over four weeks, this amounts to about 4,600 calories or 20 Mars Bars… just see how much your skin will thank you for it.

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