As a grown-up, I feel like I’ve earned the right to eat sweets. And eat as much of it as I want! But as someone who’s very mindful of skincare, I must exercise a little bit of restraint when it comes to sweet indulgences. In fact, reducing sugar intake happens to be one of my three new year resolutions. And this is an elaboration as to why.
The unhappy bottom line is this: a diet high in sugar is going to make you wrinklier faster and make you more prone to having pimply breakouts.
When sugary foods, otherwise known as high-glycemic foods, are broken down in the body, they are quickly converted into glucose. This rapid surge of glucose in the blood is met with a surge of insulin and simultaneously signals the immune system to release pro-inflammatory compounds.
Inflammation & Acne
Many dermatologists would agree that the cause of acne is a complex interaction of changing hormones, clogged pores, excessive sebum, overgrowth of normally harmless bacteria and inflammation. However, many of these same dermatologists would also shrug off the link between diet and acne for lack of scientific evidence. But to me, it’s baffling how one could deny this existing connection between what we eat and inflammation.
So what exactly is inflammation? When you’re sick or injured, inflammation occurs as a result of your body trying to heal itself. This is known as acute inflammation, a response that is brief and lasts only several days. Inflammation is supposed to be a short burst of activity in your immune system. But when inflammation becomes chronic, meaning that it just hangs around and doesn’t go anywhere, it can cause gradual damage to the body and lead to a variety of diseases.
How Does Inflammation Cause Acne?
Although there are many factors that can contribute to the formation of acne, the two main culprits are hormones and inflammation. A hormone imbalance can result in excess production of sebum (the skin’s natural oils) and excessive skin cell growth, which in turn can block pores.
Enter P. Acnes bacteria, the anaerobic bacteria that is known to trigger acne. In fact, this bacteria is usually present on our skin and pose no problems. But inflammation can cause oxidation changes in sebum and lower its oxygen content, thus giving the P. Acnes bacteria a more suitable environment to thrive and multiply.
Research shows that the initial key that triggers acne formation process is not the bacteria, but rather the oxidative damage to sebum caused by inflammation.
Sugar & Aging
Even if you’re lucky enough to have smooth, acne-free skin, it is still important to reduce your sugar intake. High amounts of sugar in the diet increase advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, which is a protein that binds to glucose molecules and can damage collagen and elastin, the proteins that give skin its plump and youthful structure (Read: Sugar and Aging, How To Fight Glycation).
Modifying Our Diet (Just A Little)
The fact is, we can’t completely eliminate sugar from our diet. And it would be silly to try! After all, glucose is also present in many healthy foods. All carbs eventually get converted into glucose, so the best thing we can do is opt for low-glycemic foods which releases glucose in a slower and more manageable way.
Examples of foods to heap up on are whole grains like brown rice, leafy greens like kale and spinach, and fruits that are low in sugar but high in antioxidants like berries. Also, good fats such as those found in avocado, nuts and fish are anti-inflammatory and very good at keeping the skin healthy and glowing.
In the end, if you really MUST get your sugar fix, the key is moderation in conjunction to a diet that’s abundant with wholesome nutritious foods. When enjoyed this way, a bit of dark chocolate or a slice of cake from time to time won’t hurt you. And can actually be very good for the soul!