Working Out The Wrinkles: These Foods Accelerate Aging, According To Research

In 2014, a survey by Harris Poll reported that 87% of Americans have at least one fear when they think about growing old. These fears include disease, fading memory, and even sagging skin.

People who want to retain nice skin and general good health throughout their lives might not be aware that their diet could be making them age earlier. Studies have shown that certain diets can contribute to visible wrinkles. If you want to keep looking youthful, avoid these foods that age the skin and other organs.

More Donuts, More Wrinkles

Donuts are sorted onto shelves in a bakery.
Amy Syiek/Unsplash
Amy Syiek/Unsplash

Donuts are another treat that you should only eat once in a while. Although they don’t have as much sugar as other pastries–around 13 grams in a chocolate glazed donut–they still age the body. An assistant professor of medicine at Tulane University, Dr. Timothy Harlan, says that donuts can make you look older.

Because donuts have no fiber, their sugar is quickly absorbed into the body. That, plus the trans fats, cause long-lasting inflammation that destroys collagen in the skin. Collagen usually keeps the skin springy and youthful, explains registered dietitian Andrea Giancoli. But that won’t happen with donuts.

Sugar Leaves People Prone To Diseases

Powdered sugar is outlined in the shapes of a fork and spoon.

Dr. Andrew Nish of UnityPoint Health explains that sugar, especially refined white sugar, makes us appear older. Fructose damages collagen, which makes the skin sag, darken, and develop wrinkles.

Sugar can also lead to an early death, but not because of obesity. A 2020 study in Cell Metabolism found that sugar builds up a waste product called uric acid. This damages our DNA, leaving us prone to metabolic and cardiac diseases. Eating less sugar will help you live longer and look more youthful.

French Fries Can Cut Years Off Of Life

A person salts a container of french fries.
Emmy Smith/Unsplash
Emmy Smith/Unsplash

Although french fries are tasty, people who eat them often are at risk of early death. In 2017, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed adults who ate fried potatoes over eight years. Participants who ate two to three servings of fried potatoes weekly were twice as likely to die early.

Although unfried white potatoes are healthy, frying and salting them leads to health consequences. Other studies have linked french fries to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Fries are also often loaded with salt, which can cause dehydration and make the skin look older.

Soda Can Make Your Body Two Years Older

A glass of soda stands in front of an empty Coca Cola can.
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In 2014, research in the American Journal of Public Health discovered that soda ages people as much as smoking does. Soda shortens telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes that control the aging process. When participants drank eight ounces of soda daily, they aged 1.9 years faster than those who didn’t.

There are many reasons why soda ages people. The high sugar has a unique effect on the metabolism, explains psychiatry professor Elissa Epel. Soda is also linked to illnesses such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. And soda also affects sleep, which can lead to dark eye circles, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Why Energy Drinks Are More Dangerous Than Coffee

On a computer desk, a can of red bull sits next to a glass of the same drink.
engin akyurt/Unsplash
engin akyurt/Unsplash

Energy drinks contain more caffeine than other beverages, which could make them dangerous. According to the Food and Drug Administration, at least 34 deaths have been linked to energy drinks, usually by people who drank around ten a day. But you don’t need to consume that much to face the consequences.

Clinical dietitian Katherine Zeratsky explains that the high caffeine content elevates the effects of sugar and sodium. This is why energy drinks cause more inflammation than coffee or tea. The inflammation, plus the lack of sleep from excess caffeine, might form wrinkles, gray hairs, and puffy eyes.

The Life-Threatening Risks Of Frozen Dinners

In a grocery store, a refrigerator aisle is stocked with frozen meals.

Frozen dinners are made from high-sodium, highly processed foods that are not healthy. In 2019, researchers from Navarra University analyzed many of these foods including chicken nuggets, pizza, and meatballs. According to them, people who frequently eat processed foods are more likely to die prematurely.

The most dangerous frozen meals are ones with added salts and sugars, usually done to preserve flavor. Registered dietitian Kayleen St. John adds that frozen meals have immediate consequences, such as a puffy aged appearance and internal inflammation. If you can, stop relying on frozen meals.

Beware Of The Preservatives In Bacon

A person fries bacon in a pan while camping.
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Bad news for bacon-lovers: it could be aging you internally and externally. Bacon contains harmful preservatives such as nitrates, sulphates, and sodium. In the European Cytokine Network, a 2013 study found that bacon creates oxidative stress. This stress attacks the skin, destroying collagen and sabotaging the skin’s elasticity.

Other studies have connected bacon to premature death. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who eat processed red meat daily have a 20% higher chance of dying early. The inflammation from bacon causes diseases that could age you quickly.

Although It Sounds Healthy, Fruit Juice Can Shorten Your Life

Glass of fruit juice stand next to whole fruit.

Soda is not the only sugary drink that ages you. Although it seems healthy, fruit juice can cut years off your life. According to research in JAMA Network Open, drinking fruit juice frequently can increase the risk of premature death from 9% to 42%.

Many premade juices are loaded with sugar, which raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. However, there are some anti-aging juice recipes out there that prevent sagging skin. You should make these yourself, and do not add sugar.

White Bread Creates AGEs

Slices of white bread are in a ziploc bag against a blue background.
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you eat white bread regularly, you’re at risk of getting wrinkles. In 2010, scientists examined 26 studies on whole grain and white bread. They concluded that white bread creates more visible wrinkles, while whole wheat can get rid of wrinkles.

When the body digests refined grains, the protein and sugars combine to create advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short. AGEs are biomarkers for degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and kidney disease. They also make the skin appear older and duller.

In Terms Of Aging, Butter Is Better Than Margarine

Sticks of margarine are layered on top of each other.
Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Butter or margarine? When it comes to aging, margarine is worse. It is made from partially-hydrogenated oils and trans fats that deteriorate the skin. According to Food and Chemical Toxicology, trans fats make the skin more vulnerable to UV rays. The result is more wrinkles, dark spots, and sun damage after eating margarine.

If you want to keep your heart youthful, you’ll also want to avoid margarine. The American Heart Association says that trans fats lead to coronary heart disease more than saturated fats. Although it might seem odd, butter could be the healthier choice.

How Fast Food Changes Your DNA

A woman eats a fast food burger.
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If you want to live long and remain youthful, stay away from fast food. Research shows that processed junk food speeds up biological aging. In 2008, Spanish scientists discovered that fast food shortens telomeres, the parts of chromosomes that control aging. It literally takes years off of your life.

Fast food has immediate physiological effects as well. Registered dietitian Amy Shapiro says that the simple carbs and fats cause wrinkles and other skin issues such as acne. It can also lead to high blood pressure, bloating, and inflammation. That’s a lot for a burger or fried chicken.

Why You Should Never Char Meat

A plate holds cubes of charred grilled pork.

Charred meat might be tasty, but it comes with health consequences. Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that grilling meat increases the amount of AGEs. As a result, charred meats greatly increase inflammation more than other meats. These can damage skin collagen, create wrinkles, and harm the heart.

Charred meats have also been linked to several types of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, barbeque raises the risk of pancreatic, prostate, and colorectal cancers. The high heat and smoke create chemicals that can age you more quickly.

How To Pick The Right Rice Cakes

A single rice cake patty sits on top of bags of rice cakes.

While rice cakes can be a healthy snack, you’ll have to double-check which ones you eat. Many are made with sugar-stuffed refined grains. According to 2013 research in the journal Age, people with high glucose levels have a higher “perceived age,” such as gray hairs, wrinkles, sagging skin, and dull eyes.

Registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth recommends that people avoid rice cakes sweetened with artificial flavors or sugar. Instead, buy ones that are made with brown rice and have high fiber. These will not have the aging effects that white rice cakes offer.

Potato Chips Trigger Inflammation Markers

Potato chips are stacked on a stick.
Karol Serewis/Gallo Images Poland/Getty Images
Karol Serewis/Gallo Images Poland/Getty Images

Potato chips are a combination of carbs, sugar, salt, and fat–all a recipe for accelerated aging. They contain trans fats, which can shorten a person’s lifespan. According to registered dietitian Lisa Hayim, trans fats activate a biomarker of inflammation called interleukin 6.

In 2001, a study in the journal Circulation analyzed interlukin 6 in older women. People with a high interlukin 6 have a heightened risk of heart disease and early mortality. And we haven’t even touched upon what potato chips do to the skin!

If You Want To Remain Younger-Looking, Avoid Red Meat

A person arranges sausages and other red meats in a deli.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Out of all the meats, red meat is the most controversial. While it’s fine to eat once in a while, too much will increase your chances of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. After studying over 84,000 women for years, Harvard researchers discovered that participants who ate the most red meat tended to die younger.

Another study, this time from Scottish and German researchers, linked red meat to age-related diseases. According to scientists, consuming red meat daily could cause “age-related damage,” such as heart problems, immune damage, and mental decline. Additionally, the sodium, saturated fats, and sulfites in red meat can dehydrate the skin and weaken collagen by causing inflammation.

Agave Is Just As Bad As Sugar

Agave sweetener pours from a smaller cup into a larger glass.
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Although agave is touted as a natural substitute for sugar, it is just as unhealthy. Medical and weight loss expert Dr. Tasneem Bhatia explains that agave is primarily fructose. Once the liver meets fructose, it not only turns it into fat but also breaks down collagen, making fine lines more noticeable,” the doctor explained.

Research by the American Technion Society also connected fructose to aging. Participants had more fine lines and rougher skin after eating fructose-filled products such as agave. For a healthier sweetener, choose honey or Stevia.

Candy Is Not Sweet For Your Skin

A jar contains Valentine's Day sweethearts candy.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

While everyone knows that candy is unhealthy, some might not know what it does to your skin. Endocrinologist Sophie Chan told The Sydney Herald that sugar binds proteins in the body. AGEs inhibit the building blocks of the skin, causing sagging, wrinkles, and dark circles beneath the eyes.

Candy also affects longevity. According to a study in the BMJ, people who eat candy two to three times a week have a greater risk of mortality. However, if you eat candy a few times a month, you’ll live longer.

Cupcakes Have Worse Ingredients Than Sugar

Homemade cupcakes sit on a baking sheet.
Jeremy Liew/Unsplash
Jeremy Liew/Unsplash

Cupcakes contain more than just sugar. According to registered dietitian and nutritionist Alexandra Miller, they also have trans fats and refined carbs. All of these “promote an unhealthy microbiome and it is also pro-inflammatory,” she explained.

The more sugar you eat, the more skin inflammation you’ll have. In February 2020, scientists reported that sweetened diets can cause skin disorders, psoriasis, and itchy, painful red spots. Even in minor doses, cupcakes can irritate your skin enough to create wrinkles, sagging, and dark spots. That’s why you should only eat them once in a while.

Don’t Resort To White Pasta, Either

Layers of angel hair pasta lie ont he table.
David Ramos/Getty Images
David Ramos/Getty Images

White pasta is just as bad as white bread. They are both refined grains that could shorten a person’s lifespan. In the journal Advances of Nutrition, scientists examined over 100 studies on white grains. They determined that refined grains increase the risk of all-cause mortality, mainly from diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and more.

During another 2013 study, researchers found that whole-grain pasta can help people live longer. But refined pasta is worse for your health, and the added sugar could even make your skin look older. Replace white pasta with wheat, vegetable, or quinoa noodles.

Why Fruit-Filled Yogurt Is Much Worse Than Plain Yogurt

Packaged fruit-flavored yogurt is seen in a refrigerator.
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Getty Images

While yogurt can improve the skin’s appearance, fruit-filled flavored yogurts are not the same. Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano says that many flavored yogurts are packed with sugar. Some can even have between 13 and 20 grams, more than most donuts.

These sugars irritate the skin, damage collagen, and cause acne. The extra sweetness can also deteriorate your teeth, according to Dental One Associates. Zumpano told Cleveland Clinic that, in terms of yogurt, “plain, nonfat yogurt is best.” Add flavor yourself with fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, or granola.

By Cutting Out Hot Dogs, You Might Live Longer

Hot dogs are piled onto a plate.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Hot dogs are an example of the worst kind of meat: red, processed meat that is high in processed chemicals and sodium. It’s no surprise that experts link hot dogs with an early death. In fact, scientists from the University of North Carolina said that people could lower their risk of early death by up to 16% by cutting out red processed meat.

Hot dogs can also make you age visibly. In March 2020, a study in the journal Nutrients connected processed ret meats to noticeable wrinkles. The fewer hot dogs you eat, the younger you’ll appear.

Even Moderate Drinking Will Age Your Brain

A photo shows an elderly person's hands.
Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Alcohol consumption accelerates aging, not just in your skin, but in your brain. In February 2020, researchers from the University of Southern California scanned people who drank daily. The more often people drank, the more their brains aged. Some 40-year-old people had brains similar to people aged 50 and 60.

Even if you drink “moderately” (about four to seven drinks per week), your brain will still suffer the effects. Participants had fewer crucial thinking skills and more memory issues. And that is ignoring all of the wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging that alcohol causes!

Too Much Coffee Means Too Much Aging

An elderly woman works on a crossword puzzle while drinking coffee.
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Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Good news: coffee has anti-aging benefits, according to several studies. However, dermatologists warn people not to drink too much. Esthetician Jillian Wright explains that caffeine dehydrates the skin, builds up toxins, and destroys collagen. You might have skin redness and wrinkles if you drink too much.

Dentistry professor Maureen McAndrew adds that coffee is acidic, which decays your teeth over time. If you don’t want that, do not drink more than four cups of coffee, or 400 mg of caffeine. And make sure you won’t lose sleep from the caffeine–that will also create wrinkles!

The Aging Effects Of Sweet Coffee Creamers

Several containers of opened coffee creamers are on a restaurant table next to coffee.

According to a 2020 study by Comax Flavor, the most popular coffee creamers are vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut. These creamers have detrimental health effects, even if people don’t realize it. They are filled with sugars, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils that age the skin and other organs.

A study from the American Heart Association discovered the coffee creamers age the brain. When participants ate foods with trans fats and hydrogenated oils, they had worse memory. The oxidative stress from processed foods like coffee creamers harms brain cells. If you use unflavored, unsweetened coffee cream, you’ll feel younger.

Packaged Deli Meats Shrink Chromosomes

Processed deli meats are packaged and on display in a grocery store.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Packaged deli meats are processed with preservatives such as sulfites and sodium. Dermatologist Ariel Ostad explains that these preservatives cause inflammation in the skin. When collagen gets inflamed, it creates more wrinkles and accelerates the appearance of aging.

Deli meats also age the body more quickly. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed meats shorten telomeres on chromosomes. If you eat them every day, you risk aging much more quickly. Buying unprocessed meats could make you feel and look more youthful throughout your life.

Only Eat Soy Sauce Occasionally

A man pours a soy sauce packet onto sushi.
JOEY MCLEISTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images
JOEY MCLEISTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images

While soy sauce is fine with an occasional meal, do not consume it all the time. Soy sauce is high in sodium, with 879 mg in every tablespoon. According to dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, sodium sucks water away from the skin. Chronic dryness carves more lines into the skin and makes it lose its vibrancy.

A high-sodium diet can also make the brain age more quickly. In 2017, researchers found that salt worsens cognitive decline in older adults. If you eat soy sauce frequently, you’re getting a lot of excess sodium.

Stop Cooking With Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils

A grocery store shelf is filled with vegetable oils.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While some vegetable oils are healthy, others can accelerate aging. Hydrogenated vegetable oils are the worst. According to Toxicological Research, many of these contain harmful trans fats. Corn oil contains the most, while soybean, palm, and sesame oils also have trans fats.

Trans fats age many parts of the body, especially the brain. In 2015, a study in PLoS One found that trans fats worsen memory in some people. Hydrogenated vegetable oils can even heighten your risk of dementia. Stay away from these oils, and double-check packaged foods to ensure that they do not contain them.

Steer Clear Of Flavored Microwave Popcorn

Cheese-flavored popcorn pours out of a microwavable bag.
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Unflavored, stove-popped popcorn makes a healthy snack. But if you eat cheese-covered microwavable popcorn, you might age quicker. The high-glycemic index will negatively affect collagen, make skin saggy, and even cause breakouts, says dermatology professor Ava Shamba.

Some types of microwavable popcorn also contain trans fats. In 2019, Japanese researchers linked trans fats to a higher risk of dementia. It essentially makes your brain age as well as your skin. To be clear, you can eat popcorn if you get one with lower sugar, salt, and trans fats.

Artificial Sweeteners Affect You In The Same Way As Sugar

Packets of artificial sweeteners are stored in a white jar.
Alicia Wagner Fitness/Pinterest
Alicia Wagner Fitness/Pinterest

Some people might think that artificial sweeteners are healthier than sugar, but they are wrong. “Artificial sweeteners have been shown to be able to affect our hormones in the same way as sugar,” explains dermatologist Hadley King. They trigger a process called glycation, which binds collagen and elastin. The skin then loses its strength and vibrancy.

Along with causing wrinkles, artificial sweeteners tend to be hard on your body. Obesity and weight-loss specialist Dr. David Ludwig says that some sweeteners can be more potent than sugar. If you use a sweetener, aim for a natural one like Stevia.

Lemonade Deteriorates Your Teeth

A close-up shows a straw in a glass of lemonade.
Romulo Yanes/Condé Nast via Getty Images
Romulo Yanes/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Citrus fruits have anti-aging benefits; however, you can’t get those from lemonade. Most lemonades are only 15% lemon juice, and the rest is sugar. This drink is as bad for aging as soda, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Sugary drinks rob the skin of nutrition and can make people feel older. On top of that, lemonade is highly acidic and can ruin your teeth. A study in General Dentistry found that lemon juice damages teeth more than grapefruit or orange juices. All of that will make you appear older.