Eating too much sugar can make you look old

Sugar is not so sweet after all. A new study out of the Netherlands shows that high blood sugar levels make people look older.

Researchers from the Leiden University Medical Centre and Unilever in the U.K. showed photos of over 600 women and men aged 50 to 70 to a group of independent assessors.

Those with higher blood-sugar levels looked older. For every millimole per litre increase in blood sugar, the person was perceived to be five months older. The normal blood sugar range is from five to eight millimoles per litre, two hours after eating. And, predictably, the diabetics in the group came across as the oldest.

"This is the first time that a link has been demonstrated between high blood sugar and facial aging," says David Gunn, senior scientist at Unilever and researcher on the study. "We already knew that high blood sugar was bad for the health, but we now also know that it makes people look older than they really are."

The study, published the journal of the American Aging Association, took other factors into account, including gender, body mass index, insulin levels and whether the person is a smoker. And still, says Gunn, "the effects were clear — the higher the blood glucose, the older the person looked."

This doesn't surprise Toronto-based dietitian,Anar Allidina.

"There are no nutrients in sugar," she says, "so if you have a high sugar diet you are robbing your body of vitamins that are essential for healthy skin."

Although you might want to pass on your regular dessert, or that afternoon cookie, trying to cut down on sugar in your diet is a lot more work than that. Carbohydrates like pasta and bread are also contributing to the sugar in your blood.

And don't expect a sugar-free diet to translate immediately into younger-looking skin. The sugar in your blood isn't directly related to the amount of sweets you consume.

"There is no direct link of a high sugar diet and high blood sugar levels," explains Allidina. "Its more a combination of factors."

"Excessive calories coming from carbohydrates, protein or fat can lead to obesity, which can increase your chances of developing type-two diabetes," she says, "but other factors such as, exercise, age, family history also need to be accounted for."

Although it's not the only factor, diet does play a big role. One recent study shows that a low-glycemic index diet — featuring foods like pumpernickel, quinoa, flax, beans and nuts — can help people with Type 2 Diabetes control their blood sugar levels. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends a healthy meal plan and regular exercise — and medication if those levels get too high.

Maybe the added incentive of younger looking skin will push people to find ways of reducing the sugar in their blood.

Carolyn Morris. (Shine On)

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