London: A study suggests that living an unhealthy lifestyle could make you look older because high blood sugar causes the face to age more quickly.
According to experts, people whose blood sugar levels are higher than average look older than those with low levels.
Blood sugar, which can rise as a result of an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise, was already known to cause ill health but the study is reportedly the first to link high levels to appearance.
Researchers found that every additional millimole per litre increase in blood sugar, which in healthy people is usually between five and six mmol/l, adds five months of ageing to their facial features.
They measured the blood sugar of 602 people, and a group of 60 independent assessors studied two photographs of their faces to come up with a “perceived age” score.
Healthy people with low blood sugar typically looked a year younger than those with high readings, and a year-and-a-half younger than diabetics, the study claimed.
The ageing could be caused by a build-up of sugar which sticks to collagen – a protein in the skin which keeps it supple – and is difficult for the body to remove.
Alternatively, the glucose could hamper insulin production, which is believed to play a central role in ageing, the researchers said.
“The higher glucose people had, they started looking older. Diabetics looked older again, and they have had the worst exposure to high glucose levels,” the Telegraph quoted lead researcher David Gunn as saying.
“This adds extra evidence that there is another reason to have a healthy lifestyle – because it is going to affect your appearance as well as your health,” he added.
The study was published in the Age journal.