How and why do sugar (and sweets) speed up aging

Studies show that an excess of sugar and other refined carbohydrates accelerates aging in several ways at the same time: it destroys collagen and causes thickening of tissues, leads to increased micro-inflammation, and contributes to the disruption of fighting mechanisms against oxidants.

In particular, under the influence of sugar, the body’s protein and fat molecules undergo glycation, which causes faster aging of the skin and influences the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Read on to learn how sugar affects aging.

How does sugar affect facial aging?

According to scientists, the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) accelerates after 35 years. The adverse effects of sugar on the skin become significantly more noticeable from this age on.

Among the acute symptoms of premature aging associated with excess sugar in the diet, the following manifestations can be noted (2):

  • Rougher and brighter skin
  • Deterioration of the natural complexion and appearance of age spots.
  • Deepening of wrinkles above the upper lip.
  • The appearance of deep wrinkles on the cheeks at the top of the smile.
  • Sagging skin around the cheekbones

In addition, an excess of sugar in the diet leads to the disruption of the metabolic processes of the hormone insulin. Insulin increases the reabsorption of sodium (the main component of table salt) in the kidneys, which improves fluid retention and, in the long term, contributes to hypertension and vascular problems.

Daily sugar allowances for aging less

The World Health Organization recommendations regarding maximum sugar intake (for people without diabetes) are strict: WHO standards allow only 10% of daily calories in the form of sugar³.

In practice, we are talking about 200-250 kcal or 50-60 g of sugar. This means using sugar in its pure form and adding form as an ingredient. A glass of cola or fruit juice contains around 20-30 grams of sugar, 50% of the daily value.

Collagen, aging, and sugar

Collagen and elastin are the types of proteins most vulnerable to the destructive glycation processes (and, in particular, exposure to excess sugar). However, these proteins keep the skin elastic, responsible for the elasticity of the tissues and maintaining a healthy complexion.

In total, collagen represents 25 to 45% of all proteins in the body; it is part of both the hair and the skin and the tissues of the internal organs and muscles. From the age of 25-30, the body begins to lose about 1-2% of this substance each year. At the age of 35, the body lacks about 15%, and at the age of 45 – already 30%.

Excess sugar changes collagen structure: it becomes stiffer (going from type 1 collagen to type 3 collagen). The result is the tightening of the skin and the appearance of wrinkles.

Sun rays and skin aging

Three critical factors of aging are oxidative stress (which causes the loss of telomeres at the ends of chromosomes and prevents proper DNA replication), the accumulation of damaged proteins in the body (even during the glycation process), and damage caused by UV rays.

In the case of facial skin, research shows that ultraviolet rays are responsible for 90% of the skin damage that leads to premature aging (4). At the same time, the use of protective products significantly reduces the damage.

Instead, protein glycation caused by sugar consumption negatively affects the skin’s ability to restore micro burns caused by the sun’s rays, speeding up the aging process.

Sugar and brain function

Excess fast carbohydrates in your daily diet have been linked to learning disabilities, depression, and poor memory. Specifically, eating high doses of sugar reduces the production of a particular substance known as brain neurotrophic factor (BDNF). (5)

Without a sufficient amount of BDNF, the human brain cannot fully form memories, leading to a slowdown in learning processes. Additionally, low levels of BDNF reduce the body’s ability to resist insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes.

RECOMMENDED: How do carbohydrates affect the brain?

Other oxidative damage to sugar

A recent branch of research suggests that age-related degenerative diseases (dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s) may also be associated with excessive sugar consumption.

The main toxic effect of glycation end products is associated with the initiation of cross-linking between cellular polymer molecules, leading to internal cell damage and death.

Science believes that oxidative stress and increased glycation end products initiate a positive feedback loop where regular age-related changes become a pathophysiological cascade. (6)


The harm of excessive sugar consumption is expressed not only in weight gain. Many studies show that excess sweets are linked to diabetes, hypertension, premature skin aging, and even the earlier development of age-related degenerative diseases.

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