Does sugar make us age faster?

Spoon with sugar cubes.
A high sugar intake can lead to serious health issues, like diabetes, that may make the body look and feel older.
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Most people avoid sugar for one particular reason -- eating too much sugar is an easy way to gain weight. But even if you don't gain weight easily, there are some other negative effects of sugar to watch out for: It's possible that too many sweets could make you age faster in a number of ways.

Recent research does show a relationship between lower-calorie diets -- often relating to less sugar consumption -- and longer life spans. While sugar itself is not necessarily the enemy, the way the cells in your body recognize and use sugar may speed up the body's aging process and make your skin look older [source: Science Daily].


To understand this interaction, take a closer look at the way sugar works in your blood. When you gobble down a serving of sugar, whether in your favorite slice of pie or from the carbohydrates in a basket of bread sticks, your body converts that sugar to glucose [source: WebMD]. You need glucose, as it serves as the main source of fuel for your body. However, too much of a good thing can lead to problems down the road.

One major health issue linked to high blood glucose is diabetes. Your body naturally releases insulin after you eat to keep your blood glucose at a certain level. If you're diabetic, your blood glucose levels rise unchecked. Diabetes itself is dangerous enough, but it can also lead to further health problems such as cardiovascular disease, kidney damage or nerve damage [source: Mayo Clinic]. Diabetics might also experience skin, mouth and bone problems that make the body look and feel older than it should.

Researchers also recently found a link between blood sugar and Alzheimer's disease [source: Fisher Center]. It appears that high blood glucose levels lead to a decreased level of brain activity in the hippocampus. Since the hippocampus is important for memory and learning, a decrease in brain activity here can make Alzheimer's more pronounced. It's important to note that many patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's have damage to the hippocampus region of their brain.

So while your body needs some sugar for energy, too much may age your body in unexpected ways. To learn more about substances that contribute to aging, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation. "Blood Sugar Linked to Aging Brain." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Diabetes." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • Science Daily. "Not So Sweet: Over-consumption of Sugar Linked to Aging." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • WebMD. "Blood Glucose." (Accessed 9/24/09)