3 things sugar does to skin according to science

Sugar. sugar, sugar most of us love it but does it wreak havoc on our skin? Let's find out.

Christmas is often a period of indulgence what with kids selection boxes and gifted luxury chocs, so the aftermath can often spell a bit of misery for skin, for some anyway.

I know that when I've over indulged I will get one big bad spot in a particular place on my face. Luckily the moisturiser does its magic but clearly if it's messing with skin it's first messing with the gut.  As it stands, too much sugar can reduce beneficial bacteria which leads to leaky gut syndrome and an increase in pathogenic bacteria, the species of microorganisms that cause disease, which can lead to a condition known as dysbiosis which in turn can wreak havoc on our joints with increased inflammation. You can read all about the observed microbial changes induced by high dietary sugar, i.e., reduced diversity, increased abundance of Proteobacteria and decreased abundance of Bacteroidetes here.

I'm pleased to say, all bar a few nibbles of dark chocolate that I've thrown sugar to the wind (day 4, still eating fruit), I'm talking about hidden sugar in processed food and refined sugar, in sweet snacks and chocolate; I'm moving to local raw honey - more on honey in a later blog post. My reason is primarily to see if, by dramatically reducing my intake of refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, there will be a noticeable reduction in pain in a slightly arthritic big toe. 

Sugars are of course an important source of energy with glucose being the most important for the body; our brain requires around 130 grams of glucose per day to keep functioning. I plan to get mine from complex carbohydrates, fresh fruit and veg and as aforementioned raw honey and if I bake (which frankly seems to be once in a blue moon) then I shall give Stevia (without any heavily processed added ingredients) a go - a gift from a friend at Christmas. As an aside, a carbon and water footprint assessment from one of the largest stevia producers, using sweetness equivalence for comparison, found an 82% reduction in carbon footprint for stevia compared with beet sugar and a 64% reduction compared with cane sugar. So it's a more sustainable option too. Read about Stevia here

Back to sugar, worldwide consumption of which has tripled over the last 100 years and in Europe alone, over the past 50 years our consumption on average is now 100g per day, 3/4 more than the World Health Organisation's recommendation. 

So what does it do for skin? Here's 3 things:

1. Acne: Sugar and refined carbohydrates are certainly a contributing factor to acne. One study found that people who frequently consumed added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne, while those who regularly ate pastries and cakes had a 20% greater risk study.

2.  Ageing: Sugar is ageing for skin. Too much sugar is ageing for skin and accelerates the ageing process. It reacts with protein, creating advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). This process is accelerated in all body tissues when sugar is elevated and is further stimulated by ultraviolet light in the skin study 

3. Inflammation: Excess sugar consumption can cause a spike in insulin, increasing inflammation which produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles. "High sugar intake seems to stagger the balance of microbiota, by modifying the ratio of Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes, to have increased pro-inflammatory properties, decreased immune-regulatory functions and decreased capacity to regulate epithelial integrity" (Source) 

In conclusion it appears that this increased consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates (with a high glycaemic index), contribute, not only to ageing skin, but whole body inflammation as detailed in the studies cited.

Here's hoping the toe pain lessens through this experiment with not eating sugar!

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