Sweet dreams are made of…. Giselle’s abs, Cate Blanchet’s skin and Chris Hemsworth chopping wood in the back yard. How to make these dreams come true? (apart from the Chris Hemsworth bit - we’re afraid we can’t help you on that one). Ditch the ‘sweet’ part. From the moment we cut our first tooth, it’s drummed into us that tucking into Haribo’s finest ain’t going to do our gnashers any favours, but did you know that sugar can actually make you look older too? (We’re talking decades btw). And don’t get us started on the studies that show it can even age brain cells...
First up is the pre-middle-aged middle-aged spread; “Excessive intake of sugar leads to weight gain, particularly around the middle,” says Dmitri Tkatchev, Nutrition Consultant and Personal trainer at Epoch Fitness. “The reason for this is different in men and women but it’s strongly linked to levels of the stress hormone cortisol. We often crave sugar when we’re stressed as the body pre-empts needing this energy for ‘fight or flight’. When not used, it’s deposited as fat near the middle as it’s close to the liver where it can be used for energy," (the body can't distinguish between "we're about to be eaten by a lion" stress and "my boss is driving me up the wall" stress). In fact, a recent study found that excess fructose intake (fruit sugar) actually caused visceral fat cells to mature – leading to a bigger belly.
If that wasn’t enough to put you off, celebrity Naturopath and author of ‘Reverse the Signs Of Aging’ Dr Nigma Talib warns that eating an excessive amount of sugar can cause you to look up to twenty years older (and the more you eat, the faster skin aging occurs). She has also identified something she terms “Sugar Face” which is characterised by lines and wrinkles on the upper forehead, sagging under the eyes, spots, a gaunt look to the face (as sugar affects fat distribution) and a grayish or pasty hue to the skin. The reason? Sugar causes a reaction in the skin called glycation.
"Glycation is a process where sugar molecules attach themselves to other molecules, for example proteins and fats,” explains top Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams. “In the skin, the sugar molecules attach themselves to important proteins such as collagen (which gives skin it’s youthful ‘bounce’) preventing it from performing it’s optimal function as a major supporting structure in our skin and resulting in damaging ‘Advanced Glycation End products’ (or AGEs). Glycation also causes other destructive reactions in our skin, including free radical formation, oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which accelerate ageing.” All in all bad news for our skin so what can we do? “Some degree of glycation occurs all the time, and that’s fine, but the extent of glycation in our skin is greatly increased by consuming a high sugar diet. We can significantly reduce the rate of glycation by reducing the amount of sugary foods we eat on a daily basis." The upshot? It's time to cut back on sugary foods, snacks and drinks (otherwise known as joy). Sorry about that.