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Is your skin singing the sugar blues?

  • Story Highlights
  • Study: Eating sugar may accelerate the aging process
  • Excessive blood glucose, from eating sugar, disrupts protein activity
  • Proteins include collagen, elastin, which keep skin firm, elastic
  • Deficits in collagen, elastin result in saggy, wrinkled skin
  • Next Article in Health »
By Linda Saether
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Before you grab that leftover piece of Halloween candy, you might want to rethink the decision. It could cost you, in wrinkles. It now appears the sweet stuff might make us happier and possibly more hyper, but also make us look older.

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Foods that turn into glucose in the body also can make you look older, researchers say.

A study in the British Journal of Dermatology breaks down the science of how this works, putting the aging blame on a process called glycation. Glycation occurs when sugars -- not just refined sugar, but anything that turns into glucose in your body -- are eaten and the glucose hits your bloodstream. As they float along, they search out and latch on to proteins and form a new molecule called advanced glycation end products, or appropriately shorted to AGEs.

The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you produce. As they multiply, these molecules wreak havoc with adjacent proteins. The most vulnerable of these proteins are just the ones we want to stay strong: collagen and elastin. They are the compounds responsible for keeping our skin firm and elastic.

The result is sagging, wrinkled skin. DRAT. Video Watch why you might want to put that Halloween candy down »

But before you throw in the towel and start saving for plastic surgery, there is some good news about this newly reported form of sugar blues. There are some things you can do to put the sticky sweet damage into rewind.

The first place to start is probably the most obvious: Limit the sugar in your diet. Kerry Neville, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says, "The lower you can get the added sugar in your diet, because they aren't adding anything to your diet, the better."

But those added sugars can be hard to ferret out. "Eliminating them all is hard," Neville contends. "Often it is a matter of where you are getting the added sugar. Food labels don't spell out added sugars," so look for words such as corn sweetener, corn syrup, sucrose or sorghum, to name a few.

Overall, the latest finding about wrinkles sits well with the Seattle, Washington-based nutritionist, because, as Neville points out, "Americans eat too much sugar, and it appears that the threat of making them fat doesn't seem to discourage excess sugar eating. So this latest wrinkle scare might just do the trick. That is great."

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But Dr. Darren Casey, a dermatologist and dermatological surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia, isn't so worried about potential skin damage from sugar. "Sun and smoking are the leading cause of wrinkles," he said. His best advice, aside from getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet, is to take "a chewable vitamin C."

And whether your skin is sugar damaged or just environmentally challenged, Casey says, you can't go wrong by using products that contain retinoids, which are a class of compounds related chemically to vitamin A. Those products, whether over the counter or prescription, are the best to help soften fine lines or wrinkles, which in turn will make you look younger and may just make you act sweeter, no sugar necessary. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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