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Glycation: Sugar Is Making You Age Faster
We all know our diet impacts our overall health, but did you know it can impact how your skin ages? Our skin is our biggest organ, and it is susceptible to both internal and external environmental factors. When our diet is unbalanced, our skin suffers, particularly through the process of glycation - and it all has to do with sugar.
What is Glycation?
Glycation happens when excess sugar in the bloodstream reacts with proteins and fats to produce advanced glycation end products (AGEs). An increase in AGEs leads to an increase in the symptoms of aging, such as age spots, inflammation, wrinkled and sagging skin, and vein conditions. AGEs are also known to change protein structure, causing nerve pain, retina disease, and artery blockage, which leads to cardiovascular disease.
What Causes Glycation?
Glycation is affected mainly by two factors: blood sugar levels and exposure to UV rays (check out this video). The latter is basically the scientific explanation for why we're told that too much time in the sun leads to quicker aging. Blood sugar levels might not be something you pay a lot of attention to unless you have diabetes, but they can also lead to advanced aging. AGEs also occur naturally in the body and increase as we age.
Is Glycation a Common Problem?
If you’ve never heard of glycation, you might be wondering if it’s really that big of a deal. Everyone ages, right? This is true, but some people age in a healthier way than others. This is why some 60-year-olds are practically immobile, while some 90-year-olds are as spry as they’ve ever been. Glycation could be the culprit of many health issues that occur alongside aging. Not being aware of its effects can lead to a higher likelihood of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for people in the United States. Diabetes, which affects about 30 million people in the country, can also be prevented if you take measures against glycation. By working to prevent glycation, you're not only protecting your skin, but also taking steps against diabetes and heart disease. When your skin is healthy, the rest of your body stands a higher chance of being healthy.
How Do I Prevent Glycation?
Even though it might seem like a vague concept, there are very tangible steps to preventing glycation. The first is to control your blood sugar levels. Dr. Joseph Mercola writes, “Of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your longevity, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important.” And Dr. Joseph Debé recommends fighting AGE formation on every front, but also highlights diet: “Whether formed in the body or from dietary sources, AGEs have the same detrimental effect. The modern Western diet is high in AGEs. This could be a significant factor in the chronic degenerative disease epidemic of 21st century America.”
WHAT STEPS CAN I TAKE?
1. Eat consistently—preferably small meals every 3-4 hours. 2. Keep sugar intake to a minimum. 3. Eat low-glycemic foods like nuts, vegetables, and lean meats. These take longer to break down in your body and help stabilize blood sugar. They also keep you full longer, which can help you to: 4. Manage your weight. It’s no coincidence that rising rates of obesity are occurring at the same time as rising rates of diabetes. Excessive weight is tied to high blood sugars as well as increased AGEs. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent countless health conditions. 5. Build muscle. As we age, we naturally lose muscle, which leads to an increase in blood sugar levels. 6. Shield your skin from the sun. 7. Limit alcohol consumption. It puts stress on your body, increasing glycation. We all know that managing our health is important, but when you realize just how intertwined our body’s organs are, it’s easier to see how managing your diet and exercising affect multiple factors of your health. Whether you’re concerned about heart conditions, diabetes, or preventing aging skin, these steps can help decrease glycation and improve overall health. You’ll have better chances of not only living longer and looking younger, but also being able to enjoy that extra time even more.
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