Why sweeteners are so bad for the skinThe real problem with alternative sweeteners is that although they might seem innocuous, many of them spike insulin, just as much or more than sugar. Sucralose spikes insulin, and another popular sweetener contained in many foods, such as cottage cheese and low and fat-free foods called Acesulfame-K, spikes insulin more than sugar. In fact, in animal studies, Ace-K spiked insulin 114–210% over baseline.1 This is why you have to look for those hidden sugars on foods if you want beautiful skin. Just look on a bottle of sugar-free vanilla coffee creamer and notice “fructose” is clearly an ingredient in it. Fructose, which you’ll learn today, is the skin’s arch enemy.2
Diet Drinks and SweetenersWhile we might think that sipping on beverages sweetened with calorie-free sweeteners is good for us, most of them actually do more harm than good, the development of insulin resistance, obesity, and type II diabetes. All sweet tastes spike insulin to some degree, and eating sugar and/or artificially spiking insulin in our bodies with artificially sweetened beverages and foods are leading to all-day insulin spikes. Consequently, we are seeing an increase in metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance (a fast track to diabetes) all over the world. Sugar and artificial sweeteners that spike insulin are contributing to this problem. In fact, when scientists want to “give” an animal insulin resistance to study how to reverse the condition, for example, they load it up on white sugar and lots of fat.3 Another problem that research has recently uncovered is that sweeteners work to “uncouple” sweet taste from sweetness, and eventually, the body cannot distinguish between sweet taste in sweeteners and sweet taste in food. Thus, the body releases insulin whenever sweeteners are used—which is horrible for sugar-free vanilla latte-drinking individuals.4 This decoupling leads to insulin resistance because insulin is always present in the blood. All the time insulin spikes eventually makes the body stops “listening” to insulin, which leads to insulin resistance, obesity, and all that follows.5 Yet another disastrous effect of sweeteners on the body, as researchers have recently discovered, is that they destroy productive bacteria in the gut. As Dr. Helen West reports, by throwing off our gut bacteria balance, “our cells [become more] resistant to the insulin we produce, leading to both increased blood sugar and insulin levels.”6 For example, in 2014, Israeli researchers found that artificial sweeteners changed the gut bacteria so much in mice, that this gut dysbiosis increased blood sugar levels 24 hours a day.7 The most overwhelming evidence that artificial sweeteners have a highly negative impact on the insulin response in humans has been in studies of diet soda’s disastrous long-term effects upon health. In study after study, diet soda has proven to cause insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes.8 And just about every artificial sweetener spikes insulin to some degree including:
- Agave nectar
Sweeteners: how they affect your skin—a three-pronged approach.We know about sugar’s disastrous effects on the skin, and the point being made above is that the reason sweeteners are equally bad for your skin is that they cause insulin spikes and, consequently, inflammation, which is disastrous for the skin. Blood sugar spikes lead to the release of AGEs (advanced glycation end products) and MMPs, Matrix Metallo Proteinases in the body, both of which are enzymes that eat away at collagen and elastin fibres and tissues in the body, ageing our skin and our bodily tissues faster.9,10 When it comes to alternative sweeteners and whether or not they are unhealthy for your skin, there are three important criteria you can use to evaluate the dangers they pose to your skin, your health, and to your blood sugar.
The fructose to glucose ratio
How much the sweetening agent spikes insulin
Does the sweetener contain toxins/chemicals/even poisons?
Sugar: egads, it’s bad for skinSugar can destroy your skin — and your health — in all kinds of ways, as we’ve discussed in other articles. But, just to recap:
- Sugar spikes glucose, leading to the manufacture of aging AGEs in the skin because of the glycation process (see above, number 2).
- AGEs destroy our natural antioxidant system in the body, leaving us susceptible to sun damage and premature ageing.15
- Sugar increases inflammation in the body by 100%. Inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles.16
- Inflammation also causes chronic acne breakouts which can eventually scar the skin.
- Inflammation results in the release of MMPs which break down collagen and elastin.
- Sugar breaks down the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria, causing clogged pores, acne, and oily skin.
- When sugar spikes insulin, which negatively impacts the way we synthesise crucial proteins we need to strengthen collagen and elastin.
- Sugar manufacturers excess testosterone, which enlarges pores and makes skin ruddy and patchy looking.17
- Sugar is very dehydrating, thus exacerbating oily skin.
- Sugar’s increase of testosterone hardens blood vessels, leading to redness in the face and broken capillaries.
The fructose to glucose ratio
How much does it spike insulin?
Does it contain toxins, contaminants, chemicals?
Agave nectarAgave nectar is especially inflammatory and extremely bad for the skin. Containing a fructose to glucose ratio of 85% to 15%. So agave is especially inflammatory, insulin spiking, and, thus, bad for the skin. Agave is also processed with chemicals that exacerbate acne and other inflammatory skin issues. Then there are the chemical catalysts involved. The polishing and clarification processes in agave nectar production rely on the use of chemicals like:
- Inulin enzymes
- Activated charcoal
- Sulfuric and/or hydrofluoric acid
- And hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), also known as 5-hydroxymethyl furfural.
Raw Honey: Sweet boon for skinRaw honey (it has to be raw or it may have toxic compounds from pesticides) is bursting with skin-friendly compounds and nutrients. Along with xylitol, which we’ll discuss in a moment, raw honey is actually beneficial to your skin. Honey contains many acne-fighting compounds, such as Methylglyoxal, a peptide known as bee-defensin 1 which kill the p.acnes bacteria and bacteria in the gut, as well. For this reason, honey is also good for breakouts when applied topically, helping to soothe the skin and draw out the bacteria. Raw honey is also rich in an antioxidant called pinocembrin, as well as pinostrobins and flavonoids, all extremely nourishing to the skin. Honey’s sugar profile is good too, possessing a fructose to glucose ratio of roughly 51:49. So it hardly spikes your blood sugar at all. So you don’t have to worry about your collagen and elastin fibres. So, when it comes to honey, we’re looking at a food that is actually good for skin. It can help to eradicate acne and contains enzymes and antioxidants that are good for the skin. So, this is one all-natural best bet for glowing, healthy, acne-free skin.20
Aspartame: The worst of the worstAspartame is loaded with toxins and health dangers. For one thing, aspartame is believed to raise blood sugar by destroying beneficial bacteria in the gut. For example, in one study, mice fed aspartame for 11 weeks developed high blood sugar levels. Researchers believed this was the negative impact of the sweetener, which alters healthy gut bacteria, enhancing the transport of sugar from the intestines into the body and elevating blood sugar.21 Like stevia, aspartame can contribute to the dangerous “decoupling effect” that can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, and inflammation. Aspartame is also rich in highly toxic, dangerous chemicals, just one of which is methanol, a wood alcohol, and poison. Methanol is gradually released in the small intestine when the methyl group of aspartame encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin. Here’s what methanol does when consumed:
- That wood alcohol breaks down into formaldehyde in the body, which is a serious poison and toxic to the internal organs.
- Formaldehyde is also a deadly neurotoxin. The EPA recommends only using 7.8 mg a day. But JUST ONE PACKET contains 37 mg. of aspartame.
- Yes, you read that correctly. Heavy users of aspartame-containing products consume as much as 250 mg of methanol daily or 32 times the EPA limit.
Splenda (Sucrose)Splenda is a highly artificial sweetener that shares a lot in common with aspartame and saccharine, the real poisonous sweetener popular since the 60s but a known carcinogen today. Of course, it’s still sold at grocery stores. Splenda contains no fructose or glucose, yet it is the most insulin-spiking of the sweeteners, spiking glucose some 20% upon consumption. So it fails criteria one horribly. Inflammation, we know, is a huge danger to the skin. Does it contain harmful chemicals? Oh, yes. Sucralose (Splenda), as one researcher notes, “bears more chemical similarity to DDT than it does to sugar.”23 As Dr. Mercola notes, Sucralose is, in fact, a synthetic chemical that was originally cooked up in a laboratory. The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a fructo-galactose molecule.24 This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature, and therefore your body does not have the ability to properly metabolise it or eliminate it via waste. Instead, it is absorbed into your fat cells. According to James Turner, the chairman of the national consumer education group Citizens for Health states that eating Splenda (or any sucralose) is “like putting a pesticide in your body.”25 Is it bad for your skin? Extremely. In fact, as Dr. Mercola reminds us, Splenda consumption has been found to cause allergic symptoms such as redness, itching, swelling, blistering, weeping, crusting, rash, eruptions, or hives (itchy bumps or welts). So, Splenda/sucrose? Oh no, no, no.
Stevia: Everyone’s loveThere are different degrees of health when it comes to stevia. Most of all, you want to look for the extract form of this sweetener. You don’t want chemically modified stevia, as is found in Truvia. Stevia is a plant-based sweetener. It’s completely fructose-free and 300 times sweeter than sugar. Because stevia is so intensely sweet, glucose is cleared by insulin to drop the blood sugar, but no sugar is provided. This is where cortisol comes in. Adrenaline and cortisol are released to mobilise sugar from other sources like glycogen, in the muscles, and the liver. As one dermatologist explains, “Cortisol works on the testosterone pathway, and one of the more common things we see in direct response to raising cortisol levels is acne.”26 Also, stevia is believed, because of its intense sweetness, to enhance the “decoupling” effect of equating sweet taste with “sweet” and leading to insulin resistance, obesity, and all that follows. Use with caution.
Xylitol: The new kid in town—with surprising benefits for skinNow we come to xylitol, a surprising new sweetener that, as research shows, is safe for consumption and a glorious additive for the skin. We believe xylitol is getting ready to make a big splash in the UK and the US because it is actually good for skin and a wonderful anti-ageing, glycation-preventing, wrinkle- reversing wonder for the skin. Xylitol is also great for blood sugar. In fact, Xylitol actually helps to stabilise blood sugar. We want our blood sugar stable so we can keep burning fat rather than storing it. Xylitol can even help prevent sugar cravings.27 Among its many benefits we’ve discovered so far, Xylitol has been proven to
- Clear bacteria from the body, such as candida
- Helps clear acne because of its antibacterial properties
- Actually, helps to stabilise blood sugar28
- Actually has proven to prevent insulin resistance in animal studies29
- Prevents cavities and destroys staph in the mouth (which causes chronic bad breath)
- Enhances collagen synthesis30
- Reduces glycation in the skin (remember, glycation destroys collagen and elastin)31
- Prevents age-related decline in collagen and age-related collagen degradation
- Helps strengthen collagen by reinforcing the 3-dimensional proteins in collagen that make skin look full and plump32
- Helps strengthen bones and enhances bone density.
ConclusionThere aren’t many ways to sweeten foods and beverages that are good for you or your skin. Honey and xylitol are far ahead of the pack when it comes to possessing benefits for the appearance and health of the skin with honey reigning superior because it is a pure food, direct from nature.
Just like the differences in sugars and sweeteners, the differences in skincare brand ingredients, applications and chemical levels vary almost too much to count. At griffin+row, we simply use the highest quality natural ingredients and combine them with scientific knowledge and formulations to bring forth the most effective natural skincare to combat dry, dehydrated, sensitive and ageing skin. Transform your skin in 28 days and literally feel the griffin+row difference.
- Liang, Y. (1987). The effect of artificial sweetener on insulin secretion. 1. The effect of acesulfame K on insulin secretion in the rat (studies in vivo). Hormone and Metabolic Research. 19(6):233-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2887500
- PR Newswire. (1998). Fructose consumption may accelerate aging skin’s elasticity and softness may be affected. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fructose-consumption-may-accelerate-aging-skins-elasticity-and-softness-may-be-affected-77503517.html
- C. Khambatta. What causes insulin resistance? http://www.mangomannutrition.com/causes-insulin-resistance-lipid-overload-2/
- Wei-na, C., et. al. (2013). Long-term artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium treatment alters neurometabolic functions in c57bl/6j mice. PLOS one. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0070257
- Wilcox, C. (2010). Understanding our bodies: Insulin. Nutrition Wonderland [blog]. http://nutritionwonderland.com/2010/05/understanding-our-bodies-insulin/
- Dr. H. West. How artificial sweeteners affect blood sugar and insulin. Authority Nutrition. https://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar-insulin/
- Ruppell, E. (2015. Artificial sweeteners may change our gut bacteria in dangerous ways. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/artificial-sweeteners-may-change-our-gut-bacteria-in-dangerous-ways/
- Nettleon, J. A., et. al. (2009). Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA).Diabetes Care. 32(4):688-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19151203
- Bohm, M. and Gkogkolou, P. (2012). Advanced glycation end products. Key players in skin aging? Dermatoendocrinology. 4(3): 259–270.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583887/
- Pavida, P. (2016). Role of matrix metalloproteinases in photoaging and photocarcinogenesis International Journal of Molecular Science. 17(6): 868.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4926402/
- Berriedale-Johnson, M. Fructose – the good, the bad – and the malabsorbed…Foods Matter. http://www.foodsmatter.com/allergy_intolerance/fructose_intolerance/articles/fructose_good_bad_malabsorbed.html
- Dr. Perricone. Your skin on sugar: How it impacts the aging process. https://foreveryoung.perriconemd.com/skin-sugar-impacts-aging-process.html
- Willey, J. Drinking just one bottle of diet drink a day is dangerous to your health. http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/413970/Drinking-just-one-bottle-of-diet-drink-each-day-is-a-danger-to-your-health
- How inflammation ages skin. Just About Skin. [blog]. http://www.justaboutskin.com/anti-aging-skin-care-guide/inflammation-theory-of-aging/
- Livestrong.com. (2015). Sugar’s aging effects upon the skin. http://www.livestrong.com/article/75798-effects-sugar-skin-aging/
- Adams, R. (2013). Why sugar is just as bad for your skin as it is your waistline. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/10/sugar-bad-for-skin_n_4071548.html
- Hou, K. Do you have sugar face? The Cut. http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/04/sugar-skin-face-beauty.html
- Daily Mail. (2013). The sweet truth: Ditch sugar to look years younger. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-461095/The-sweet-truth-Ditch-sugar-look-years-younger.html
- Wolfstein, R. (2015). Agave nectar and acne: Why this sweetener is the unhealthiest superfood ever. http://supernaturalacnetreatment.com/does-agave-nectar-cause-acne/
- ibid. The ultimate guide to acne-friendly sweeteners. http://supernaturalacnetreatment.com/ultimate-guide-to-acne-friendly-natural-alternative-sweeteners/
- Scientific American. (2015). Artificial bacteria may change our gut bacteria in dangerous ways. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/artificial-sweeteners-may-change-our-gut-bacteria-in-dangerous-ways/
- Dr. Mercola. (2011). Aspartame: The most dangerous substance added to food. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx
- Renter, E. (2013). The Dangers Of Sucralose/Splenda Revealed Again By New Extensive Review. Natural Society. rel=”nofollow”http://naturalsociety.com/review-dangers-sucralose-splenda/
- Dr. Mercola. (2000). The potential dangers of Splenda (sucralose). http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2000/12/03/sucralose-dangers.aspx
- Dr. Mercola (2009). New study reveals shocking information about the potential harmful effects. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/02/10/new-study-of-splenda-reveals-shocking-information-about-potential-harmful-effects.aspx
- The Huffington Post. (2012). Is acne caused by stress? Top derms explain. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/30/acne-stress-breakouts_n_2041417.html
- Gowing, D. Xylitol: A sweetener that can improve your health. http://davidgowing.com/xylitol-a-sweetener-that-can-improve-your-health/
- Islam, M. and M. Indrajit. (2012). Effects of xylitol on blood glucose, glucose tolerance, serum insulin and lipid profile in a type 2 diabetes model of rats. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22832597
- Kishore, P. (2012). Xylitol prevents NEFA-induced insulin resistance in rats. Diabetologia. 55(6): 1808–1812. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3606878/
- Mattila, P. T. (2005). Effects of a long-term dietary xylitol supplementation on collagen content and fluorescence of the skin in aged rats. Gerontology. 51(3):166-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15832042
- Gowing, D. ibid. http://davidgowing.com/xylitol-a-sweetener-that-can-improve-your-health/