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All you need to know about your skin - Part 4

February 2016 Column - © By Dr Tracy Chandler

Last month I was selected to be an Expert on the I QUIT SUGAR Expert Panel.  This groundbreaking lifestyle program has over a million followers worldwide and has helped nearly 1.2 million people worldwide quit sugar.  It was started by the New York Times bestseller Sarah Wilson 4 years ago and has grown exponentially since then.

You might be wondering what on earth this has to do with skin but sugar ages your skin!  “No way!” is most peoples’ response. Yep your chocolate chip cookie and even your salad dressing is not just making your hips bigger but also putting lines on your face!  “How does that work?” is always the next question.  Lets look at the science in a nutshell.

The ‘sciency’ bit

Sugar causes cross-linking (joining) of collagen fibers, which makes the collagen unable to repair itself. Sugar also affects the elastin part of our skin making it less elastic, which also cause wrinkles.  The effect of sugar in the skin is made even worse when it is exposed to UV light. Also, simple carbohydrates, e.g. refined sugar, soft drinks, white bread, cause insulin (a hormone in our blood) to rapidly rise.  Insulin triggers inflammation in multiple parts of your body, including in your skin.  This inflammation speeds up ageing.

Sugar can also worsen acne and rosacea. The more sugar you eat, the greater your chance of developing insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance can result in excess hair growth (hirsutism) and dark patches on the skin of the neck and body creases.

In addition the type of collagen in your skin is affected by how much sugar is in your diet.  The type of collagen you have is important in how resistant your skin is to forming lines.  Type III collagen is the longest lasting and most stable. Sugar turns type III collagen into the more delicate type I collagen which leads to more lines.  Sugar also joins to protein to make products called ‘AGEs’ which stop your body's natural antioxidants working.  This makes you even more at risk of sun damage.

How to quit (or cut back) on the sweet stuff

It's not easy to cut outsugartotally as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables turn to sugar when digested. Reducing addedsugar as a first step will be a big help. We should eat less than 6-8 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is how much is in one 333ml can of Coca-Cola. Most New Zealanders consume 37 teaspoons per day of addedsugar, which is around 465 calories.  Sugar is hidden in foodunder many different names, e.g. barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup, and molasses.  Absolutely avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as it makes more AGEs than other types of sugar.

It’s not all bad though, reducing (or even better, quitting) sugar will have multiple health benefits and will save you money because ‘Real’ food is cheaper.  I’ll talk more about food and your skin later on this year.  In the meantime, see the experts at The Chandler Clinic for a holistic approach to your skin problems.  Next month we’ll look at ways to slow down and repair skin ageing.

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