What is the secret trick to never getting old, according to science? It’s not staying out of the sun, reducing stress, or regularly applying moisturizer (although all of those things help; do them). When it comes to keeping your body youthfully healthy and reducing the visible signs of aging, science has discovered that one simple habit can be especially powerful. And it’s nothing that carries an “anti-aging” label or is even commonly known. Read on to find out what it is, and the 5 pieces of advice that can keep you living longer.
If you want to stay young, cut back on your sugar intake. Specifically, sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods with added sugar. “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. Read on to find out why.
You know that sugar is a sworn enemy of your waistline, but it’s also a serious foe of young-looking skin. When we consume excessive amounts of sugar, it reacts with protein in the body, a process called glycation. The excess sugar binds to collagen and elastin, the two compounds in skin that keeps it looking plump and youthful. This produces “advanced glycation endproducts,” or AGEs, which damage collagen and elastin and actually prevent the body from repairing them! The net result: Dull, sagging skin and wrinkles.
Sugar’s aging effects go way beyond 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.
Cutting back on sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods high in added sugar is an all-around good idea. Skipping sweet junk and substituting whole foods can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your body young by reducing the risk of age-related illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and dementia.
Be mindful of how much added sugar is in the products you buy by checking Nutrition Facts labels. (Eye-popping amounts can lurk in unexpected places, even wheat bread or bottled pasta sauce.) And if you crave something sweet, try berries. They contain natural chemicals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories that benefit the whole body, particularly in keeping the brain young. “Berries, in terms of what they can do for the brain and some of these certain chemicals that they release, are one of your best foods,” says Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon, CNN chief medical correspondent and author of the book Keep Sharp.