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Can Your Diet Affect Your Skin?

Posted on June 04, 2014 by Ruth Buttigieg | 0 comments

Whilst a rigorous face cream regimen and facials as well as other body treatments will certainly help alleviate the effect of time on our skin, what you eat can have a deep impact on how youthful your skin looks. The effect of sugars on the aging skin sometimes goes unnoticed, especially when it is drowned out by a multitude of products all promising younger more glowing skin.

Research aimed at understanding how our diet affects not only our insides but also our exterior appearance can sometimes go unnoticed. The relationship between diet and our skin has been researched since the 1940s, however it is only with recent advances in research methods are we are finally understanding the intimate link between our skin and the food we eat.


Collagen is the main structural protein in human skin. Collagen proteins link to one another forming fibers which are responsible for the skin’s elasticity. However, during the normal aging process these collagen fibers are unable to continuously repair themselves thus resulting in the skin losing its elasticity and giving rise to the appearance of wrinkles.

The effect that sugar has on the skin is that it binds to the collagen fibers and inhibits their ability to repair themselves thereby speeding up a naturally occurring process.  


The Science

This process is known as glycation and it happens when either carbohydrates in the form of glucose and fructose bond to the collagen fibers [1,2].

Glycated collagen naturally occurs at a rate of 3.7% yearly [3], however this figure can vary depending on one’s diet. The science shows that this rate can significantly be improved if one limits not only their sugar and starch intake but also the amount of junk food consumed as the majority of these have been prepared by methods that contribute to pre-formed glycated proteins [4].

In addition to the effect that glycated proteins (sugar bound to proteins) have on the skin, these can also have an impact on the human gut where they interfere with the normal gut microbes [5]. Studies have found that glycated food lowers the level of “good” bacteria which in turn disrupts the body’s ability to efficiently absorb nutrients. Research is also showing that glycated proteins may be involved in atherosclerotic heart disease [6].


Reducing simple and complex carbohydrates from your diet will undoubtedly not only have a positive impact on your overall health but also ensure that you have healthy and younger looking skin.


1. URBACH, E. (1945). CARBOHYDRATE METABOLISM AND THE SKIN. Arch Dermatol, [online] 52(5), p.301. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archderm.1945.01510290006001 [Accessed 4 Jun. 2014].

2. Corstjens, H., Dicanio, D., Muizzuddin, N., Neven, A., Sparacio, R., Declercq, L. and Maes, D. (2008). Glycation associated skin autofluorescence and skin elasticity are related to chronological age and body mass index of healthy subjects. Experimental gerontology, 43(7), pp.663--667.


3. Berge, U., Behrens, J. and Rattan, S. (2007). Sugar-Induced Premature Aging and Altered Differentiation in Human Epidermal Keratinocytes. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1100(1), pp.524--529.


4. Tuohy, K., Hinton, D., Davies, S., Crabbe, M., Gibson, G. and Ames, J. (2006). Metabolism of Maillard reaction products by the human gut microbiota--implications for health. Molecular nutrition \& food research, 50(9), pp.847--857.


5. Mills, D., Tuohy, K., Booth, J., Buck, M., Crabbe, M., Gibson, G. and Ames, J. (2008). Dietary glycated protein modulates the colonic microbiota towards a more detrimental composition in ulcerative colitis patients and non-ulcerative colitis subjects. Journal of applied microbiology, 105(3), pp.706--714.


6. Mulder, D., Van Haelst, P., Graaff, R., Gans, R., Zijlstra, F. and Smit, A. (2009). Skin autofluorescence is elevated in acute myocardial infarction and is associated with the one-year incidence of major adverse cardiac events. Netherlands Heart Journal, 17(4), pp.162--168.

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