glycation face

GLYCATION – Sugar and why its ageing us

Angela Hodgkiss – Angelique Day Spa and Skin Clinic

There’s been so much in the media lately about Glycation but what does it actually mean?

Firstly, two of the biggest assaults on skin are glycation and oxidisation. Oxidisation is primarily from sun damage whereas glycation is from diet. Glycation is basically when a sugar and protein (collagen and elastin) meet and this can result in end products called (AGES). AGES result is tissue atrophy and loss of function. It affects the collagen and elastin fibres in the skin as well as the dermal glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans which affects cell growth, fibroblast production, enzymatic activity etc. Glycation is always occurring, however, due to the build up of damage in underlying skin structures it can take time to manifest visually.

Glucose and Fructose will attract and attach themselves to protein molecules and this will eventually become irreversible. Collagen needs flexibility but sticky glucose turns it stiff and skin becomes yellowed. On the other hand it also affects the elastin but causes sagging. AGEs are present in the skin and then with UVA damage (oxidisation) it becomes amplified. We do have enzymes found naturally in our body that will help break down the methylglyoxal (a by product in the glycation process) but we lose these enzymes as we age. Diabetics who already have a difficult problem in processing the glucose find their skin prone to glycation skin issues such as neuropathy (nerve damage) and scleroderma (auto immune disease).
Its not just the skin that is affected by AGES, in 2007 a report by Simm et al. conclusively showed the oxidative conditions that arise from AGES lead to cardiovascular disease and in 2011 Srikanth et al’s report showed how the AGES are instrumental in the development of Alzheimers disease. This is built on the fact that we already know AGES are responsible for cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic neuropathy, artery disease and skin ulcers.

Glycation end products wouldn’t be so bad if they just floated around in the blood but they are attracted to cells by RAGES on the cell walls. The AGES bind to cell RAGES. Rages are receptors that are part of the immune system and when they activated by AGES cellular inflammation occurs which is a major factor in ageing as well as inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, alzheimers, neuropathy, vascular and loss of dermal volume.

The bad news is skincare will not make much of an impact in treatment of glycation without a change of diet and exercise. However in skincare we can look for ingredients such as tocopherol, white willow, licorice root, horse chestnut, olive, green tea and oat beta glucan and SUNSCREEN and in natural ingredients we can look for Chamomile, hawthorn berry, dokudami, blueberries, pomegranate extract, carnosine and grape leaf which have been found to show promising results in controlling AGES. Vit b6 and carnosine have also shown evidence in inhibiting AGES.

Reducing the consumption of processed foods and high dry heated foods (eg roasts) can assist as they induce the production of AGES. So dust off that slow cooker. Avoid cigarettes as they contains high levels of glycotoxins that get into the blood stream and induce the formation of AGES and are of course the major factor in lung cancer. These cigarette induced AGES are harming the skin in the same way as well as reducing oxygen supply. Finally EXERCISE because about 70% of blood glucose is consumed by muscle which means any weight bearing exercise will help.

Laboratories already use autofluorescence readers to detect AGES and hopefully it won’t be long before we can look forward to this technology being readily available in salons too.  There are drugs available to reduce glycation that are primarily hypoglycemic in nature and used to treat diabetics.
Sources Terry Everitt APJ volume 25 (2015) and APJ 2016


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