Can too much sugar affect your skin?

One of the greatest benefits since The Real Meal Revolution book hit the bookshelves in South Africa late in 2013 is that people have generally stopped eating sugar, decreased their intake or they have become more aware of what sugary foods they put into their mouths. This book co-authored by Professor Tim Noakes, Sally-Ann Creed, David Grier and Jono Proudfoot is packed with advice and recipes which keep one satiated and help to shed the kilograms with relative ease. Banting, a word used to describe a low carb, high fat diet (LCHF) way of eating has become a word on every South African’s lips!

This LCHF and moderate protein lifestyle has helped many people who previously found it difficult to lose weight, to shed weight in an unprecedented way:  eating meat, eggs, butter, dairy, lots of fresh green vegetables while still being allowed to drink a limited amount of alcohol. It provides a comfortable eating plan with good weight loss if adhered to strictly, meaning very low carb intake and NO sugar and not breaking any of the cardinal sins!

Sugar cravings are definitely reduced due to the combination of protein and fat and the reduction or exclusion of carbohydrates, which are converted to sugar once ingested by the body. Carbs play havoc with blood sugar levels, triggering an insulin response and keeping one trapped in the sugar craving cycle. Only now are people beginning to see the value of eating more fats and protein to reduce these cravings.

Sugar was recently referred to in an article as the new nicotine and in the same article it mentions that for far too long we have been preoccupied with fat rather than sugar. One of the most profound and little known benefits of removing sugar from the diet is that it helps to reduce the threat of premature ageing of the skin.

Glycation is a process where excessive sugar molecules in the bloodstream cross-link with protein fibres such as collagen and cause inflammation, which in turn form advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Once these proteins and sugars bind together the protein fibres become stiff and brittle, breaking down the foundations of a good, healthy, skin and stunting skin cell growth.

Accelerated ageing due to glycation causes a loss of elasticity which in turn leads to a wrinkled, dull, sagging skin with a compromised barrier function. Cell turnover slows in glycated skin and thin and crepy skin is often attributed to glycation process.

What can you do to help prevent glycation of the skin:

  • Reduce or eliminate sugar in your diet – keep your blood sugar levels stable to reduce sugar cravings, read labels carefully for hidden sugars and remember carbohydrates produce glucose in the body which equates to sugar;
  • Apply an antioxidant under your daily moisturiser as antioxidants help to protect the skin from free radicals. Topical serums containing vitamins C&E are especially beneficial as they target the dermal layer of the skin where collagen and elastin are found;
  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily with a minimum SPF 15 if you are just going about your daily business (even on overcast days) and an SPF 50 if you are outdoors for any length of time in summer. Glycated skin is both fragile and vulnerable and the sun can cause a further breakdown in collagen and elastin;
  • Supplements – David J Goldberg, a New York Dermatologist and Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has been quoted as saying that 1mg of Vitamins B1 and B6 are potent AGE inhibitors.
  • Use targeted topical treatments which help to block the formation of AGEs such as Skinceuticals A.G.E Interrupter which helps to inhibit glycation, it stimulates GAGs, the skin’s ‘mattress’ and helps to protect the skin’s barrier function.


Dr Ian Webster / July 2014







Leave a Reply