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Anti-aging regimens are a huge industry. Countless cosmetics and regimens claim they can help you preserve youth and erase the signs of aging. But what if preventing premature aging was as easy (and inexpensive) as choosing not to put one thing in your body? "Added sugar is the number one most significant health threat in America," says David Zinczenko, best-selling author of Zero Sugar Diet. "A sugar like fructose, for example, may increase blood pressure, increase heart rate, and boost myocardial oxygen demand (basically, how much oxygen your heart needs to function). It may also contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance, and overall metabolic dysfunction. And we get more fructose in our diets today than was ever possible before, thanks to high-fructose corn syrup, the sweetener used (and sometimes hidden) in soda and most other convenience foods. The more added sugar that sneaks its way into your diet, the less healthy food you'll eat the rest of the day. And the faster you will age."
Read on to find out the #1 cause of aging too quickly—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
The #1 Cause
"Findings from research studies suggest that a diet containing lots of sugar or other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging," says the American Academy of Dermatology. Not only can eating too much sugar prematurely age your body—it increases your chance of obesity and associated health problems like cardiovascular disease and diabetes—it can also directly age your skin. "Sugar may be obvious or it may be hidden," says Zinczenko. "There are dozens of names you might find in the ingredients list that really just mean sugar. The USDA lists the following as alternate names for added sugars recognized by the FDA: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, confectioner's powder sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, fructose, hight-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, nectars, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar, white granulated sugar; other names not recognized by the FDA include: cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, crystal dextrose, glucose, liquid fructose, sugar cane juice, and fruit nectar." Read on to find out how these sugars age you—and what you can do about it.
How Sugar Ages You
When consumed in excess, sugar binds to collagen and elastin, two proteins in our skin that keep it looking firm and young. This creates advanced glycation end products (aptly acronymed AGEs), which damage collagen and elastin and actually prevent the body from repairing them.
But It Goes More Than Skin-Deep
A study at the University of California—San Francisco found that people who consumed more sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda, had shorter telomeres, the part of our cells that hold DNA. Telomeres start out long and get shorter as they age. When they get too short, they die. "Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence metabolic disease development through accelerated cell aging," wrote the study's authors. Not only is telomere shortening the literal process of aging, people with shorter telomeres are at risk of serious diseases including heart disease and cancer.
Plus, Sugar Increases the Risk of These Diseases
Cutting back on sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods high in added sugar is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. It can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your body young by reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia. (Your chances of developing all three increase with age.)
RELATED: The #1 Cause of Heart Attack
Beware of Hidden Sugars
Even if you cut back on simple carbs like white bread and sugary sodas, juices and sweets, you can still be consuming more added sugar than you realize. Be mindful of how much added sugar is in the products you buy by checking Nutrition Facts labels, where added sugar is now listed on its own line. Eye-popping amounts can lurk in unexpected places, like wheat bread, pasta sauce, and seemingly "healthy" foods like fat-free yogurt. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.