Sugar and Aging
An estimated 300 theories of aging have been proposed in the scientific literature and the question of why and how we age continues to be explored and debated with hundreds of new studies each year.
What we do know with some confidence is that sweetener consumption makes you age faster and more visibly, and it can shorten your lifespan.
At first this idea that sugar accelerates aging came in the form of a theory advanced in 2003, in the journal Medical Hypotheses. The author evaluated studies done on the benefits of caloric restriction in extending lifespan, and studies done on the health impacts of sugars and fats, to offer a path for future research to investigate whether “restriction of foods with a high glycemic index would avoid or delay many diseases of aging and might result in life extension.”
Subsequent research began to establish the links between the various sugars and age acceleration.
Studies detailed how chronic sugar intake produces glycation in the body, which in turn damages collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, which results in sagginess, wrinkles and skin discoloration. The typical signs of aging manifest.
But it gets worse for you sugar eaters. A by-product of glycation are free radicals which not only further contribute to accelerated aging, yet also make the skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun, thus raising the risk of skin cancer. Even greater concentrations of free radicals are generated by consuming high fructose corn syrup.
Sugar intake also shortens your life.
In 2014 a study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that people who drank sugar-sweetened sodas had shorter telomeres than people who didn’t drink them. Telomeres are at the end of chromosomes inside our cells and as these cells divide over time with age, telomeres get shorter, a standard marker for aging. Sugar’s impact on telomeres, accelerating this shortening, tells us that sugar promotes faster aging and quicker death.
In another experiment evaluating how other people view the ages of sugar eaters, a team of scientists in Holland in Sugars Accelerate Your Aging 113 2013 took photographs of 602 test subjects, men and women aged 50 to 70 years, and measured their non-fasting glucose and insulin levels. These photographs were then shown to a board of 60 independent assessors who were asked to assess the ages of test subjects. The higher the person’s blood glucose level, the older that person looked and was rated by the independent viewers.
This was a consistent study finding. Sugar consumption produces high blood glucose levels, which in turn ages the person faster, a phenomenon that is visible to other people.
“We took into account other factors such as whether or not that person smoked and yet still the effects were clear— the higher the blood glucose, the older the person looked,” commented Dr. David Gunn, a co-author of the study, in an interview he did with Britain’s The Daily Mail newspaper.
“Skin experts agree,” observed dermatologists quoted in the newspaper article. “A diet high in sugar is a disaster for the face.”
An even deadlier combination to accelerate aging and hasten death is to mix a sugar-laden diet with high levels of stress. The stress hormone cortisol was measured in a large group of volunteers in another study by the same Dutch researchers, along with the glucose levels, and another clear trend emerged showing that sugar and cortisol make people older.
It may be a synergistic effect at work between stress and sugar. This is an angle on aging that remains to be fully explored by research scientists, though it already makes perfect sense. We know from a substantial body of research that stress is both a premature age-promoter and a serial killer. Now we know that sugar is, too. Combine the two killers together and we have a criminal gang loose in our lives.
Evidence for the Sugar and Aging Link
“Glucose and cortisol have been previously associated with facial aging. We assessed a random sample of 579 people from the Leiden Longevity Study. A higher non-fasted glucose level and a higher fasted cortisol level tended to associate with a higher perceived age based on skin wrinkling.” Disentangling the effects of circulating IGF-1, glucose, and cortisol on features of perceived age.
Hippocrates Health Institute does not support or endorse the testing of animals.