NEW ORLEANS -- We've long known that sun exposure, smoking and pollution cause skin damage, some believe even more so than aging.
But now research finds we are aging ourselves from the inside out.
The highly processed, high sugar, high simple, white carbs that we load our grocery baskets with are destroying our cells.
"Can we impact the way our skin ages with nutrition? And I think the answer is now we know, 'Yes,' " said Metairie Dermatologist Dr. Patricia Farris, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology.
Dr. Farris teamed up with New York nutrition expert Brooke Alpert to write The Sugar Detox. It hit the London Times bestseller list in just two weeks.
Doctors now see that too much of those high glycemic foods are not only linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, colon and breast cancers, but a damaging reaction in the body that can be seen through the skin with a special light, called glycation. It happens when too much sugar is circulating in the blood.
"One of the molecules (sugar) loves to attach to is collagen and also elastin. So these molecules, which of course keep your skin plump, keep your skin firm and wrinkle free, actually become damaged during the glycation process," Dr. Farris said.
Glycation also affects arteries, the heart, muscles and tendons causing stiffness. It's part of Alzheimer's and macular degeneration.
"Once glycation of proteins, like collagen and elastin occurs in the skin, those molecules are extremely difficult to get rid of. So prevention remains key here," added Dr. Farris.
And turns out, it's not real chocolate that is bad for your skin, it's the high sugar levels in milk chocolate that rev up the hormones that cause acne.
"Acne is a problem of western cultures. We don't see acne in places where people don't eat processed foods," Dr. Farris said. "We fingered the chocolate when in reality the problem probably was the sugar, and there have been studies now that have been done that show that giving kids who have acne, low glycemic index diets, actually improves their acne."
Remember sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, are hidden in processed foods. And even artificial sweeteners can cause problems since they signal the gut to absorb more sugar.
"It's very interesting that artificial sugars, and especially things like diet soft drinks, have been shown to actually increase weight gain over a period of time, and this is probably why, because the body treats them like sugar," Dr. Farris said.
The Japanese understand how nutrition improves appearance and have made nutricosmetics a booming business.
"The Sugar Detox" also explains: the best skin creams, the best way to cook foods, and which fruits have enough fiber to counteract high sugar levels.
Editor's note: Dr. Patricia Farris is no relation to Medical Reporter Meg Farris.