To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Sugar Consumption and Aging,” by Erin Zimniewicz Williams, in the November 2011 issue. Article summary: It’s well known that a high intake of sugar and sugary foods and drinks can lead to weight gain, decrease your immune system and increase your risks of diseases like diabetes. Lesser known is how sugar can age your skin and make you look older. The same processes that make you look older can also age the blood vessels, ligaments, tendons and bones in the body. A high sugar intake also increases your risks for cardiovascular disease and increases cognitive decline.

by Erin Zimniewicz Williams

High blood sugar affects protein bonding in a process called glycation. Glycation creates cross-linking of collagen proteins, making them more rigid in structure. This rigidity shows up physically as stiff joints, ligaments and skin tissues, thickened arteries, cataracts and wrinkles. When blood sugar is high, more cross-linking occurs. The high amount of cross-linked proteins leaves less room for the protein elastin, so skin also loses its elasticity and softness and starts to sag.

Continuous high blood sugar creates wrinkles and sagging skin. Also, heavy consumption of sugar induces salt and water retention.

Inflammation is also increased in the presence of high sugars. The inflammatory response accelerates aging and contributes to a variety of diseases, such as heart disease, some types of cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s. Not so sweet.

Erin Zimniewicz Williams, C.N., L.M.P., is the owner of EZ Balance in Redmond, Washington. She is a certified nutritionist and licensed massage therapist as well as a yoga and Pilates instructor.