Can Eating Sugar Really Age Your Skin?

You’re likely familiar with some of the not-so-sweet health side effects of consuming too much sugar. But did you know sugar has also been linked to aging?

Yep, that’s right – research shows that excessive sugar intake weakens the immune system, promotes inflammation throughout the body, and feeds yeast and other pathogenic microorganisms. It can also lead to cardiovascular disease8, metabolic disease7, diabetes8, weight gain7, obesity8, IBS9, and a lot more.

It’s no secret: sugar isn’t good for you. And while it’s never fun to deal with bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or diabetes – the outward side effects caused by sugar are just as cringe-worthy. What many people don’t realize is that sugar can drastically age your skin when consumed frequently, especially in the form of fructose.

So before you reach for that pastry in the Starbucks line, be sure to keep these tips in mind.

The Problem: Foods that Cause Skin Aging

Although fructose is essentially fruit sugar, it’s a lot less harmless than it sounds. Aside from naturally occurring in fruits, fructose is a major component of both table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)10, which means it’s lurking in many foods we consume daily that you wouldn’t suspect.

Studies show that many skin issues can be directly related to what we consume throughout the day. To help combat stop sugar cravings and restore balance to the skin’s ecosystem, it’s crucial to start rebuilding the inner ecosystem of the gut. Making cultured vegetables (Veggie Culture Starter) can support this process and promote digestive health with friendly bacteria.

Commonly consumed foods containing fructose:

      • Table sugar
      • Cane sugars and raw sugars
      • Maple syrup
      • Agave nectar
      • Honey
      • Molasses

Processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)9

      • Soft drinks
      • Bread
      • Processed meats
      • Ketchup and condiments
      • Cookies
      • Cereal
      • Milk

If you are following the Body Ecology Diet, you have already eliminated most sources of sugar. However, some fruits like lemon, lime, berries, cranberries, and black currants are still allowed during Stage One. All other fruits – and certainly all other refined forms of sugar – are discouraged for containing too much sugar.

Two Ways Sugar Damages Your Body

1. Fructose Malabsorption

Up to 40% of people in Western countries suffer from FM.1 People with this disease don’t digest fructose properly. It ends up unabsorbed in the gut where bacteria ferments it11, leading to a pathogenic bacteria overgrowth. Fructose feeds the overgrowth, causing the pathogens to thrive. This process releases gases into the gut, causing abdominal pain and a variety of health issues.

According to The Food Intolerance Institute of Australia, symptoms of Fructose Malabsorption include: fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, sugar cravings, IBS, anemia, osteoporosis. It even impacts your skin, nails, and hair12.

While Fructose Malabsorption isn’t good, Advanced Glycation End products are toxic.

2. Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

AGEs are also known as glycotoxins. AGEs or gylcotoxins have been studied at great length because they play a significant role in the degeneration related to diabetes. Why? Diabetics have high levels of sugar in their blood, so they are more susceptible to the effects of AGEs. All blood sugars are glycated, or cross-linked, with either a protein or a fat molecule, known as a lipid. This means that they donate an electron and are involved in oxidation. Glycation is a random process, and AGEs or glycotoxins are the result.

AGEs have been linked to cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, asthma, neuropathy, and arthritis. Collagen is found in the walls of blood vessels, and AGEs injure the vascular walls. Collagen, as a main component of connective tissue, is also found in tendons and ligaments. Glycation leads to stiffening and weakening of collagen, which is why cardiovascular disease, stroke, neuropathy, cataracts, and arthritis are all implicated when there are excessive AGEs in the body3,4.

Phew! Are you still with us? Now it’s time to explore the pressing issue: how sugar is aging your body, and specifically – your skin.

How Sugar Ages Your Skin

What else is made of collagen? Skin. AGEs cause collagen to harden and break down, and skin is no exception. The elastin and collagen found in skin help to maintain its firmness and elasticity. As we mentioned above, AGEs develop from the cross-linking of sugars in the blood with proteins. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our body, and its susceptibility to AGEs is one reason why the hardening and stiffening of internal vascular walls becomes such a problem in those with high-sugar diets.

Wrinkles and fine lines are an outward manifestation of the oxidation and glycation constantly occurring inside our bodies. Eating and simply going about our daily lives naturally creates oxidative stress in the body – therefore, it’s critical to choose foods that truly nourish our bodies, while dodging foods that wreak added stress on our skin.

The Stress Connection

In addition to your eating habits, a positive self image is equally important for attaining that “youthful glow.” No matter how disciplined your diet may be, if your thoughts do not create a sense of well-being, then you are accelerating the aging process. Stress has a physical, biochemical effect inside the body.

Bacteria, inflammation, and vitamin deficiency have all been linked to not only accelerated aging like wrinkles but also mood disorders like depression.6 Feeling down? Luckily, an anti-inflammatory diet that is low in sugar and rich in friendly bacteria can actually support a positive outlook.

How to Free Your Body of Skin-Aging AGEs

Good news: it’s not too late to reverse the signs of aging and promote younger looking skin! The solution: several studies have found that B vitamins, especially thiamin (B1) and pyridoxamine (B6), help to drastically mitigate the presence of AGEs in the body5. A healthy gut supports your body’s ability to manufacture B vitamins, and healthy intestinal microbiota are especially adept at generating them.

The Solution: Cut Sugar, Add Fermented Foods

The best way to nourish your inner ecosystem — and keep the population of healthy microbes in your gut thriving — is to consume fermented foods with every meal. Here are a few tips to fit into your daily routine:

      • Choose to make fermented condiments at home and use them whenever possible.
      • Use a product like our Vegetable Starter Culture to ferment your own vegetables (the perfect addition to any salad and particularly important when eating a meal that includes animal proteins).
      • Body Ecology fermented beverages, like Innergy Biotic and homemade coconut water kefir, can drastically benefit the microbial populations in your gut.
      • Both Vitality SuperGreen and Super Spirulina Plus are fermented green powders that have an abundance of both plant-sourced antioxidants and friendly microbes.

    Key Takeaways

    Too much sugar in the diet can cause an overgrowth of bacteria and cross-link with proteins in the body to form advanced glycation end products, also called AGEs. AGEs are toxic and contribute to a number of diseases, including diabetes. AGEs also attacked healthy collagen in the skin, leaving you at risk for premature aging and wrinkles. Yikes.

    But don’t panic – with a few simple tweaks to your diet, you can help reduce the signs of skin aging and kick sugar cravings to the curb. It all starts with adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet that contain plenty of B vitamins to repair existing damage. Eating fermented foods with every meal can also help reboot your inner ecosystem to promote your body’s production of B vitamins (and promote firmer, younger-looking skin).

    RECOMMENDED FOR YOU! Constant sugar cravings are a sign that something not so great is happening in your inner ecosystem. Fermented foods with each meal tremendously help with digestion and the creation of good bacteria in the gut. Cultured vegetables made from the Veggie Culture Starter can support digestive health with friendly bacteria, so you can say goodbye to aging prematurely!


    1. Born, P. Carbohydrate malabsorption in patients with non- specific abdominal complaints. World J Gastroenterol 2007; 13(43): 5687-5691
    2. McPherson JD, Shilton BH, Walton DJ (March 1988). “Role of fructose in glycation and cross-linking of proteins”. Biochemistry 27 (6): 1901–7. doi:10.1021/bi00406a016
    3. Peppa, M. “Glucose, Advanced Glycation End Products, and Diabetes Complications: What Is New and What Works”. Clinical Diabetes October 2003 vol. 21 no. 4 186-187.
    4. Koschinsky, T. “Orally absorbed reactive glycation products (glycotoxins): an environmental risk factor in diabetic nephropathy.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jun 10;94(12):6474-9.
    5. Ramasamy, Ravichandran, Ann Marie Schmidt. “Advanced glycation end products and RAGE: a common thread in aging, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and inflammation”. Glycobiology vol. 15 no. 7 pp. 16R–28R, 2005. doi:10.1093/glycob/cwi053
    6. Deans, Emily. “Could Soda and Sugar Be Causing Your Depression? Fructose malabsorption, a very common condition with surprising correlates”. Psychology Today. May 24, 2011. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201105/could-soda-and-sugar-be-causing-your-depression#_jmp0_
    7. Tordoff MG, Alleva AM. “Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1990;51(6):963–9.
    8. Stanhope, Kimber. “Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy.” Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2016 February ; 53(1): 52–67
    9. Latulippe ME, Skoog SM. Fructose Malabsorption and Intolerance: Effects of Fructose with and without Simultaneous Glucose Ingestion. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2011;51(7):583-592. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.566646.
    10. Vos MB, Kimmons JE, Gillespie C, Welsh J, Blanck HM. Dietary Fructose Consumption Among US Children and Adults: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The Medscape Journal of Medicine. 2008;10(7):160.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2525476/
    11. Ebert K, Witt H. Fructose malabsorption. Molecular and Cellular Pediatrics. 2016;3:10. doi:10.1186/s40348-016-0035-9.
    12. Fructose Malabsorption: 2 types Fructose Malabsorption or Intolerance?” The Food Intolerance Institute of Australia, update 22 August 2017 https://www.foodintol.com/fructose-intolerance/fructose-malabsorption
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