Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered how those fine lines and wrinkles got there? If you’re like most people, you probably put it down to aging. But what if there was another culprit – something hiding in your diet all along? In this post, we’ll look at glycation – a process where sugar molecules damage collagen and cause wrinkles. Read on to learn more!

What is Glycation?

Glycation is a process that occurs when sugar molecules in your bloodstream attach to proteins, including collagen and elastin, which are crucial for maintaining youthful and smooth skin. Once the sugar molecules are attached, they can interact with other proteins and form advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).

French chemist Louis Camille Maillard discovered the glycation process in the early 20th century. He noticed that when amino acids are heated in the presence of sugars, they form a brownish-yellow compound. This reaction is now known as the Maillard reaction.


The Effect of Glycation on Skin

The real problem of glycation is the glycated proteins that stagnate in the body, particularly in the dermis. They are fertile ground for the multiplication of free radicals and the appearance of oxidative stress, which is particularly harmful to the skin.

Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) play a significant role in the aging process, both internally and externally. When AGEs accumulate in your skin, they lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, two proteins responsible for keeping your skin looking plump and youthful. As the collagen and elastin fibers lose their elasticity, your skin becomes less resilient, and wrinkles start to form. These wrinkles are often deeper and more pronounced in glycation-affected skin. Glycation also contributes to the appearance of fine lines, especially around the eyes and mouth, where the skin is thinner and more prone to damage.

In other words, glycation can speed up the aging processGlycation also increases inflammation, leading to acne breakouts and other skin problems.


How to Prevent Glycation

Glycation is a process that occurs naturally, and to a certain extent, it’s unavoidable – even with normal glucose levels, the process can occur. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware that high-sugar diets can accelerate the formation of AGEs. This emphasizes the importance of mindful dietary choices to minimize the harmful effects of glycation. Here are the steps you can take to reduce the impact of glycation on your skin and overall health:

Avoid Refined Sugar

Avoid foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates. These include sweets, processed foods, fruit juices, and white bread. Opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Consume Antioxidant-rich Foods

Antioxidants help protect the skin from the oxidative stress caused by glycation. Berries, dark chocolate, and green tea are excellent sources of antioxidants that can help counteract the effects of glycation on your skin and overall health. Raw fruit and veggies are also high in antioxidants. Plus, they contain enzymes that can help repair damage caused by glycation. 

Drink Plenty of Water

Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated, which can help maintain its elasticity and minimize the appearance of wrinkles.

Eat Food Rich in Collagen

Bone broth, bones and skin of fresh and saltwater fish, and meat full of connective tissue are all considered food rich in collagen. Eating foods that support collagen production won’t directly result in higher concentrations in your body. However, it should be incorporated into your diet as a part of a healthy eating plan.


Physical activity increases circulation, helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels and preventing the excessive buildup of sugar in your bloodstream. Engaging in a consistent exercise routine contributes to overall better health and a decreased risk of glycation-related issues.

Use Sun Protection

Wear sunscreen daily to shield your skin from UV radiation, which can intensify glycation-related damage.

Collagen-Boosting Skincare 

Use skincare products that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acidretinol, and vitamin C, which can help boost collagen production and protect your skin from glycation damage.

Slow Cooking

High temperatures can accelerate the production of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) through a process known as the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a complex chemical reaction that occurs when heat is applied to foods containing sugars and amino acids (protein building blocks). This reaction is responsible for the browning and development of desirable flavors in many cooked foods, such as roasted coffee, grilled meats, and baked bread.

High temperatures during cooking, especially methods like frying, grilling, and baking, accelerate the Maillard reaction, leading to increased production of AGEs in the food. Additionally, foods that are exposed to extended periods of high heat are more likely to accumulate higher levels of AGEs. This is why it’s recommended to use gentler cooking methods like steaming, poaching, or slow cooking to minimize AGE formation, especially when preparing protein-rich foods.

There are some foods that are particularly high in advanced glycation end-products. These include processed meats (bacon, ham, sausages), fried foods (french fries, chicken nuggets), grilled meat, and sugary foods (cookies, cake and other sweets).


Can Glycation Be Reversed?

While glycation as a natural process can’t be stopped, it can be slowed down, and its effects can be reversed to some extent. Our body uses antioxidants to combat the adverse effects of glycation on the skin, but this is often not enough. In addition to proper skincare, it’s important to follow healthy lifestyle habits and reduce exposure to factors that cause and accelerate glycation.