Recent studies have confirmed that refined sugar accelerates the aging process by adding inches to our waistlines and wrinkles to our faces. While sugar in its natural form can be rich in vitamins and minerals, refined sugar contains zero nutrients. Our country's addiction to sugary treats, especially soft drinks, is taking a toll on our nation's health. Statistics show that the average person in the United States eats 153 pounds of sugar a year. That is about 1/2 cup per day, which is more than twice the amount of sugar that can safely be processed in our bodies.

Refined sugar enters the bloodstream rapidly, causing and contributing to a host of health problems. It aggravates many chronic disease like pre-diabetes, heart and circulatory disorders, gastro-intestinal disturbances, premenstrual syndrome and reflux problems. Recent studies have confirmed that high sugar intake also advances the aging process and contributes to the formation of lines and wrinkles. According to researchers, all the fancy wrinkle creams and potions in the world can't protect you from the damage that sugar causes to your skin.

High sugar intake contributes to wrinkles because as sugar enters our bloodstream it attaches to proteins and forms harmful new molecules through a process called glycation. Collagen and elastin, two vital proteins that form the skin's structure, are particularly vulnerable to damage from glycation. When these two proteins are damaged the result is that signs of aging, including lines and wrinkles, begin to show.

Collagen is often referred to as the skin's "fountain of youth" because of its ability to prevent wrinkles and lines from forming on the skin. When we are young, our bodies have plenty of collagen so skin retains moisture and maintains elasticity. As we become older, our bodies produce less collagen. High sugar intake robs the remaining collagen of its ability to maintain a smooth skin texture.

While some foods are obviously laden with sugar it is equally important to avoid the "hidden sugars" that proliferate the products many of us consume. Become a "sugar detective" and be on the lookout. Always check the labels and avoid products that contain excessive amounts of glucose, fructose, corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose or lactose. Be aware that high-fructose corn syrup is prevalent in many seemingly healthy foods, including some fruit juices.

In addition to cutting down on sugar you can also minimize your risk of excessive wrinkles by limiting your sun exposure. Use chemical-free sunscreens to protect your skin and avoid sun exposure during the middle of the day when UV rays are the strongest. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated because natural moisture in the skin decreases with age. Check out the moisturizers that are available from natural health stores and find the one that best suits your skin.

The next time you get a sugar craving, reach for a healthy snack instead. The sweet taste of a candy bar may provide a few moments of gratification but nothing is sweeter than looking in the mirror and seeing a healthy, smooth face staring back at you.