According to author Anne Alexander, a lifetime of overdoing it on sugar may eventual show up on your face in the form of early wrinkles. Translation? A sugar-rich diet, day in and day out, causes accelerated aging. Whoa!
The culprit is the natural process called glycation, where sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products, known in short, ironically, as AGEs.
As you eat more sugar—straight up added sugars like the tablespoons you dump into your coffee every morning, or secret sugars hiding out in "healthy" salad dressing and sweeter-than-candy-bar yogurt—AGEs build up and beat up nearby proteins. "Most vulnerable to damage are the protein fibers collagen and elastin, which keep skin firm and elastic," Alexander writes in The Sugar Smart Diet. "Once they're damaged, these fibers go from springy and resilient to dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These age-related changes to the skin start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology."
More: 11 Weird Things Sugar's Doing to Your Body
A high-sugar diet also changes your collagen, turning a more resilient type to a fragile type prone to wrinkling. AGEs possess a nasty snowball effect, too, messing with your body's natural antioxidant enzyme system that helps protect you from sun damage, a skin ager in and of itself. A 2010 study in the journal Clinics in Dermatology found that when sugar is elevated in the tissues of your body, the damage is further accelerated by ultraviolet light hitting the skin.
The fix? The study authors say people should be more careful with their diets. Here's how:
1. Know maximum recommended sugar levels—and don't exceed them.
2. Avoid not just the blatant sugars, like those in soda, but also these secret sugars.
3. Beware of sugar mimics, things like bread that can act like sugar in the body.
4. Work more blood sugar-lowering foods like blueberries and avocados to your diet.