Does sugar accelerate the aging process?

Aging is the progressive accumulation of damage to an organism over time leading to disease and death. Aging is a complex, multifactorial process where genetic, endogenous and environmental factors play a role. Factors like UV irradiation, tobacco,chemicals and pollution, have been pointed as aging accelerators for a long time. But what about sugar?

When you ingest sugar or high-glycemic foods that rapidly convert to sugar your body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose, which raises your insulin levels. Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, cause your insulin levels to spike, which leads to “a burst of inflammation throughout the body.”

Inflammation produces enzymes called Advanced glycation end products (also known as AGEs), which break down collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin deficiency affects your skin, causing wrinkles, sagging skin and skin that's easily prone to scarring. In severe cases of collagen deficiency, you can even experience muscle and joint pain and soreness.

AGEs are accumulated over time. Their presence in biological molecules modifies their biomechanical and functional properties. Proteins, lipids and nucleic acids can be affected by AGEs, modifying enzyme-substrate interactions, protein-DNA interactions, protein-protein interactions, DNA regulation and epigenetic modulation, thus interfering with numerous physiological functions of the organism.

Accumulation of AGEs has been found in healthy aging persons, and this accumulation is higher during high glucose concentrations. Microvascular and macrovascular damage, seen in diabetes, is attributed to the accumulation of AGEs in tissues, but it is also associated with atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, end stage renal disease, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcopenia, cataracts, and other degenerative ophthalmic diseases, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia and several other chronic diseases.

Do you want to know more about the relationship between nutrition and aging? Visit the following scientific publications:

Dietary Advanced Glycation End Products and Aging

Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation.

Advanced glycation end products. Key players in skin aging?