Be proud of your diet…be proud of your skin

Brigstock Skin & Laser Centre’s Dr. Nilu Vajpeyi writes:


“The desire to have healthy youthful-looking skin has deep evolutionary benefits. Scientific research has shown there is a direct link between our inner health and outer youthfulness.

Your skin is after all one of your largest organs and studies have shown that perceived age is a good indication of general health. Scientific evidence has also shown that the younger you look the more likely you are to live longer.

We’re all aware of lifestyle habits that have a negative influence on our skin like smoking, pollution and excessive sun exposure, but one greatly underestimated factor is your diet. What’s more scientific studies are demonstrating that what has been considered a healthy diet over the past 30 years-namely low fat and high carbohydrates- might not be as healthy as we think and actually ages our skin prematurely.

Glycation has a significant impact on the aging process of our skin. It refers to the process where sugar molecules (glucose & Fructose) in our bodies attach themselves to other molecules including collagen and form tissue-harming cross-links called Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs). These AGEs prevent collagen from performing its beneficial function of providing support to your skin. Glycation also has other negative effects on our skin through causing inflammation, the development of free radicals and oxidative stress.

Glycation can be significantly reduced by simply reducing the number of sugary foods we eat on a daily basis. It’s worth noting that fructose, commonly used in soft drinks, is even more active than normal sugar in generating AGEs.

Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress and the production of free radicals is widely accepted as one of the key mechanisms associated with the aging process of not just the skin but of all other bodily systems. This is why one of the main strategies for reducing the aging process is to reduce free radical production and increase antioxidants.

Dietary habits have been shown to be a major factor that determines antioxidant levels and oxidative stress. By eating antioxidant rich foods like fruit and vegetables antioxidant levels within your body can be significantly increased. Indeed one particular study by Nagata et al has shown that eating green and yellow vegetables decreases wrinkles around the eyes (crow’s feet). Other studies have shown that the consumption of increased levels of fruit and vegetables improves our skin colouration in a way that actually makes us look more attractive. This is more effective than tanning without the associated risks.

There is increasing focus politically and in the media around sugar consumption and its associated risks. What is not generally understood is that carbohydrates are essentially nature’s way of storing sugar through the formation of long strings of sugar molecules.

Carbohydrate molecules in starch (amylopectin and amylose) are simply broken down by your body into individual sugar molecules. 4g of starchy carbohydrates will result in one whole teaspoon of sugar in your blood although it will be released into your blood at a slower rate. This, in turn, increases the levels of AGEs in your bloodstream resulting in negative effects on your skin and body. This means that a diet focussed mainly on starchy carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, rice or pasta is not good for our longevity, general health and skin health.

Basically, this month’s message is to be proud of your skin by REDUCING YOUR SUGAR consumption and eating more fruit and non-starchy vegetables. I’ll talk more next month about the positive effects of including plenty of protein and fats in our diet and how occasional fasting improves your health and your skin.”

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