Love sweet treats? Better think twice before popping them in your mouth. Glycation occurs when there are excess sugars forming bonds with your body’s proteins and fats, which results in advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that may be harmful to health and skin. Read to find out more!
We are what we eat. Our health (and our appearance) reflects our dietary habits and lifestyle.
Whilst good genes might play a meaningful role in how well we age, what we decide to consume on a day-to-day basis has huge bearing on the health and appearance of our skin and physique.
“Junk food” is delicious and sweetened beverages and desserts are always tempting, however before indulging in processed foods and sweet treats, there’s no better time than now to hit the “pause” button for just a second… to think about what these foods do to us. Before we dive right in, let’s look at the terms “Glycation” and “AGEs” and their impact on our well-being.
What are Glycation and AGEs?
Glycation occurs when sugars such as glucose and fructose form bonds with nucleic acids, proteins, and fats. This link produces harmful glycotoxins, known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are harmful compounds1. The more AGEs accumulated in the body, the higher the likelihood of damage caused to surrounding proteins.
How Do They Affect Us?
The glycation process begins in early adulthood. While it is a natural process, diets that are high in sugar accelerate glycation, causing more AGEs to form in the skin. Your skin’s two key proteins that are vulnerable during the process are collagen and elastin. Collagen maintains your skin’s smoothness and hydration, while elastin allows your skin to return to its regular form after being stretched or contracted2. AGEs contribute to making skin appear stiff, dry, saggy, and wrinkly.
Although our bodies have the mechanisms to eliminate AGEs, it can’t keep up when there is too much AGEs being accumulated. High levels of AGEs have been shown to cause oxidative stress and inflammation3, which increases our risk to many health issues. Without adequate antioxidant protection, it also causes our skin to become more vulnerable to free radical damage, which contributes to premature ageing of skin.
Factors Contributing to Glycation and formation of AGEs
While a high sugar diet is one of the key culprits when it comes to the development and accumulation of AGEs; it is certainly not the only contributing source. Highly processed foods, red meats, certain cheeses, as well as butter have higher levels of AGEs too. How food ingredients are prepared and cooked also plays an important role in the formation of AGEs. Grilled or fried foods (cooked using dry heat at high temperatures) have been found to contain higher amounts of AGEs as compared to boiled and stewed foods (cooked using wet heat)4.
It has also been suggested that UV radiation may play an important role in the formation of AGEs, as well as tobacco smoke5.
Combat the Effects of Glycation and Ageing
Though the damage done on collagen and elastin fibres cannot be reversed or repaired, we have listed down some tips on how you can reduce the effects of glycation and the resultant damage on your skin and health.
1. Change your diet
Cut back on sugar where possible, especially white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. It is easy to overload on sugar in the form of soft drinks, sweetened juices and desserts, so enjoy these sparingly as a special occasional treat instead of a regular daily fix. Choose fresh, whole foods that are lower in AGEs such as vegetables, fish, whole grains, and fruits.
When it comes to cooking, consider poaching, steaming or stewing6 instead of using dry and high temperature methods such as frying, grilling or broiling.
Super-charge your diet with foods that are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin Bs, C & E to tilt the odds in your favour in the fight against free radicals and the adverse effects of AGEs.
2. Exercise R.E.G.U.L.A.R.L.Y
Exercise does wonders for us. From improving overall circulatory health, optimizing our metabolic rate, keeping obesity at bay, increasing oxygen levels in our body; keeping to an active lifestyle with regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the amount of AGEs in the body7. Coupled with a healthy diet, exercise further enhances the effectiveness of a low-AGE diet.
3. Try a Skin Detox
If you are witnessing the effects of glycation in the form of premature ageing of the skin, it may be worth trying to mitigate the damage with a ‘skin detox’.
Keep to a simple but effective skincare routine by using skincare that is suitable for your skin, hypoallergenic and free from chemical irritants that can irritate your skin.
A good cleanser should be able to clean your skin effectively yet gently, and not leave you with tight and dry skin due to excessive stripping of your skin’s natural protective oils. Use a gentle exfoliating product to slough away dead skin cells which helps to keep skin bright and allows your skin to better absorb beneficial skincare products. A non-comedogenic moisturizer will keep skin hydrated, without threatening to clog pores which can result in acne outbreaks. Lastly, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to protect your skin against harmful UV rays.
Tip to boost Collagen production naturally: Products with Vitamin C, Retinoid and Aloe Vera helps to increase skin’s natural collagen production when applied topically or taken orally8. By consciously adopting a diet that is “anti-glycation” and “anti-AGEs” we can create a stronger and more effective barrier against premature ageing, whether for our skin or for our overall health. For now, we’re leaving you with this acronym: WESTA
W – Drink Enough Water
E – Eat well/ Eat Anti-AGEs foods
S – Sleep Well
T – Avoid Tobacco products
A – Be physically Active
Here’s wishing you great vitality & youthfulness in 2022 and beyond!
1Glycation and AGEs: https://yora.com/blogs/journal/glycation
2Collagen and Elastin: https://yora.com/blogs/journal/glycation
3High levels of AGEs: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/advanced-glycation-end-products#what-they-are
4 Higher amount of AGEs in high temperature foods: : https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/advanced-glycation-end-products#diet-and-ages
5 UV Rays and tobacco smoke contributing to formation of AGEs: https://yora.com/blogs/journal/glycation