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Top diet and exercise mistakes that may age you

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Getting older is a natural part of life but no one wants to look old before their time. There's no doubting that regular exercise and a healthy diet are fundamental for helping to ‘hold back the years’ but sometimes your regime may need a tweak or two.

1. You eat too much sugar

A sugar-laden diet is more than likely to lead to weight gain but there are suggestions it could also make you look older.

Too much sugar can damage the cells in your body in a process called glycation. This causes connective tissue damage and inflammation. It may make skin lose its elasticity and appear more wrinkly.

Much of what we know about glycation comes from research into diabetes. One such study carried out by scientists from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Unilever in the UK found a link between the amount of sugar in a person's system and their perceived age.

The higher their blood sugar the older they looked.

2. You eat too many ready meals

Processed foods, which are often high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, can have an effect on the appearance of your skin.

"What you eat has the potential to be harmful to your body and cause the signs of ageing if you eat a lot of processed foods which have little nutritional value," says British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Alana MacDonald.

She goes on to say: "Not only can the foods you eat age you, but often if a person has a very unhealthy diet then it is the foods which they DON'T eat which will [result in] damage to the cells in our body, which can cause signs of ageing."

3. You skip fruit and veg

Fruit and vegetables are full of antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals that are believed to help protect the body from the harmful effects of other chemicals called free radicals. These free radicals exist in the body's cells, but have been found to cause cell damage.

Over time free radical damage can result in premature ageing of the skin. So some experts believe antioxidants can help protect our skin.

Amongst other fruits blueberries, blackberries, plums and strawberries are rich in antioxidants so it may help to add these and other antioxidant-rich foods to your diet.

"Not enough fruit and vegetables in our diet can cause free-radicals from other foods and drinks to remain in our system and this can be damaging to our health", says dietitian Alana. "A well balanced diet with high levels of foods containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, along with at least 2 litres of water per day will all help minimise the signs of ageing."

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