Q & A WITH DR. NICHOLAS PERRICONE
The answer is yes.
Sugar, not only affects your waistline and heart health, it also impacts your skin. With Halloween and the holidays nearby, there are many sweet temptations, but before you grab a candy bar, you should know how sugar affects your skin and what you can do about it.
1. How does the body react to sugar?
Sugar, and foods that rapidly convert to sugar (such as high glycemic starches; bread, pasta, chips etc.) cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, resulting in the release of insulin into the blood stream. This causes us to store, rather than burn fat. However, that is not the only negative by-product. As these sugars and starches are eaten, they cause a burst of inflammation throughout the body.
2. How does sugar affect the aging process of skin?
Sugar, can permanently attach to the collagen present in our skin and other parts of the body through a process known as glycation. At the point of attachment, there is a small mechanism creating inflammation, which then becomes a source of inflammation in its own right. This inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen, the connective tissue in our body that holds together our joints and gives us supple skin. The result? Glycation, which causes cross-linking in our collagen, making it stiff and inflexible where it was once soft and supple, resulting in dull, dry and even brittle looking skin.
3. Which ingredients can help offset damage from sugar?
Alpha lipoic acid, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances, works to quell inflammation, not only on the inside of the body, but also on the surface of the skin.
Alpha lipoic acid prevents, and may even reverse, the attachment of sugar to collagen by allowing better metabolism of sugar in the cell, preventing buildup and enabling the body’s natural repair mechanisms to function better.
There is some evidence that when alpha lipoic acid is taken orally or applied to the skin, it can reverse glycation or the sugar damage that has already occurred.
Of course, when it comes to sugar toxicity, the answer isn’t merely alpha lipoic acid. The real answer is to consume less sugar and follow an anti-inflammatory diet, which helps to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood stream.
4. I’ve heard that even fruits can have a negative impact on the skin because of sugar. Which fruits are the best choices my skin?
Fruits are high in sugars (sucrose and fructose), which means that they provide quick energy to satisfy hunger. However, their high levels of sugar would be a pro-inflammatory influence, if not for their high fiber content which helps them rank surprisingly low on the “glycemic index”, which measures the impact of foods on blood sugar levels. Fruits are high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients (beneficial plant chemicals), which are typically concentrated in the skins or peels. For example, research has shown that consuming strawberries, blackberries, loganberries and apple peels can “turn off” key genetic switches that promote inflammation in the body.
Despite their relatively high sugar levels, apples actually exert a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, due in part to their high fiber content and because they contain phloretin, a flavonoid-type, blood-sugar-stabilizing phytonutrient found exclusively in apples. A study out of Finland found that eating apples can lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The researchers attributed apples’ anti-diabetes effect to the antioxidant activity of quercetin, a major component of apple peels. This is another reason to buy organic, unsprayed fruit so that you can safely eat the skin.
5. Should I stay away from chocolate?
No, the good news is you do not need to stay away from all chocolate. Dark chocolate and cocoa protect the cardiovascular system, significantly reducing the incidence of atherosclerosis. Chocolate is also similar to the blueberry in that it affords protection to our brain. As we know, substances that are neuroprotective are also therapeutic to the skin in what I call the brain-beauty connection.
Chocolate is also rich in oleic acid, the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, which helps us to absorb important nutrients. The presence of this healthy fat also helps to slow down the absorption of the sugar.
Cocoa has many benefits to the body including the skin. A chemical from cocoa protects skin from the damaging effects of sun exposure and prevents the skin from aging.
For optimum health benefits and enjoyment, choose extra dark chocolate—at least 70 to 85% cocoa content.
6. Which foods are best for my skin? Worst?
As always, avoid high glycemic and processed foods, which are pro-inflammatory and can provoke a host of skin issues including wrinkles, dullness and even breakouts. Some of the best foods for healthy skin include.
Wild salmon and other Cold Water Fish-are great sources of protein, necessary to maintain and repair the body—including the skin on a cellular level.
Watercress-Herbalists have used Watercress as a blood purifier with system cleansing properties that help to clear toxins from the body. By cleansing the blood, watercress has been useful in treating skin eruptions, eczema, acne, rashes, and other skin infections.
Turmeric-is a superb anti-inflammatory thanks to its superior antioxidant properties and its high levels of the super antioxidant curcumin. It increases blood levels of the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, an important antioxidant and vital in the body’s detoxification system, to keep skin clear, firm, toned and radiant.
Coconut-The relatively small molecular structure of the medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut makes them highly skin-compatible. They help strengthen the skin's connective tissues to help keep skin soft, smooth, supple and radiant.
Raspberries-are a rich source of vitamin C—key for collagen production. This is important because collagen is the principal protein in connective tissue. This fibrous, structural molecule provides strength and elasticity to tissue, skin, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones. Collagen supply is vital to the skin's elasticity, keeping it toned and supple, strong and flexible.