Who doesn’t want to live well into old age and if possible retain not only one’s health but also a youthful appearance? As a result, you can find an abundance of anti-ageing products on the market. Lately, one is getting a lot of limelight and that is carnosine.

We are going to look at what carnosine is and why it’s touted as “elixir of youth”. So, throw on your lab coat because it’s going to get geeky.

Sugar and ageing

Most likely you’re already aware of how free radicals can cause oxidation and so accelerate the ageing process in your body and in your skin. When you read the ingredients list of an anti-ageing beauty product, you often find vitamins A, C, and E. These are often used in skincare to help protect from free radical damage.

New research has shown that oxidative stress is not the only factor that ages your body and skin. Glycation also contributes to the ageing process. Not only does it aggravate free radical damage, but also causes dark spots on the skin, premature wrinkling, and certain age-related diseases.

When you eat or drink something sweet, you have sugar molecules in your body. These sugar molecules attach themselves to fat or proteins, such as collagen and elastin. If they can connect with fat or proteins without the controlled action of an enzyme, then that’s called glycation.

If you cook, you know this process, where your food, for example, a steak, get brown and “caramelise”. It’s also known as the Maillard reaction. Imagine that happening with your skin and body. Nevertheless, dark or age spots on your skin and internal organs can indicate glycation buildup. Even worse, recent studies found a link between age spots and early signs of dementia.

When proteins cross-link with sugar molecules non-enzymatically, they form advanced glycation end products (commonly shortened to AGEs). The proteins then get stiff and lose their structure. In this state, a malformed protein is harmful to the body, as it can no longer perform its function. Once a protein becomes stiff, it’s irreversible. As a double-whammy, AGEs also raise free radical production by 50 times.

A lot of what we know about glycation comes from diabetes research. When AGEs accumulate over time, connective tissue suffers damage as they lose increasingly flexibility and elasticity. This can result in a number of degenerative diseases such as cataracts, retinopathy, osteoporosis, Alzheimers, and diseases of the pancreas and liver.

As for your skin, AGEs accelerate cell death, scientifically called apoptosis. Even if cell death is a natural phenomenon and much needed in a normally healthy body, but with sped-up apoptosis, even healthy cells die prematurely. Translating this to fibroblasts, it means that collagen and elastin production is disrupted.

Both collagen and elastin are proteins that make youthful and bouncy skin. When these cross-link with sugar molecules, your skin starts to sag, get wrinkly, thin, and loses its radiance. As has been discovered in diabetes research, AGE also causes chronic inflammation, leading to blemished and inflamed skin.

It’s not only refined sugar, that triggers the glycation process. Even if you eat healthily, substitute whole grains for refined grains, fruits, and veggies. These too contain fructose and glucose. Although to less damaging than refined sugar, when eaten, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will also turn into fructose and glucose and attach themselves to proteins in your body.

Even though you could avoid all types of sugars, you shouldn’t. It’s a paradox of life: The things that make and give life also destroy life – oxygen, glucose, proteins, fats, trace metals. Sugar is a vital fuel for cells and energy metabolism.

Don’t fret though: Glycation happens gradually throughout a lifetime for most people with normal levels of sugar. Nonetheless, your diet and lifestyle can be seen on your skin. If someone smokes and likes to eat a lot of sweet things, they often get skin yellowing. The reason is that smoking already reduces antioxidants in the skin since these are used up to neutralise the free radicals caused by smoking. On top of it, all the desserts also cause malformed proteins.

What can you do?

Glycation is a normal process in life and can’t be halted completely, but it can be slowed. It’s just as important to prevent oxidation as it is with glycation. This means reconsidering your lifestyle choices as well as your diet, like limiting your sugar and grilled food intake.

Grilled food, photo by James Sutton

Of course, skincare also makes a difference. Research has shown there are some substances that can slow the process and inhibit or even prevent “caramelisation” or the Maillard reaction.

One such substance is carnosine. It’s a protein building block, a peptide that is made of 2 amino acids: beta-alanine, and histidine. It’s naturally produced in the body. Carnosine is found in the brain, kidney, liver, heart, and many other parts of the body. It’s also present in muscles when they’re working.

How does Carnosine work?

Carnosine is essential for many normal body functions including the proper function and development of the muscles, brain, heart, and many other organs.

Having a similar structure like vitamin E, carnosine can prevent caramelisation of protein and sugar molecules. It hinders sugar molecules from pairing with proteins because it binds with the proteins first. Further, it protects healthy proteins from being damaged by malformed ones. So, it works to inhibit glycation and as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Carnosine also works as a powerful antioxidant and thereby scavenging and disarming the free radicals responsible for attacking our DNA cells. If taken orally, it can prevent the death of uncountable body cells, which can go on to live and divide undamaged. This is the reason how your tissues such as skin, arteries, and eye membrane age less quickly.

This peptide was already discovered in 1900 by the Russian scientist Gulewitsch as a substance extracted from muscle tissue. Most of the research was done in Russia, so that it was only quite recently, that Western scientists began working with it.

Even if you’re not concerned about anti-ageing, carnosine levels fall with age, starting at 10 already. By the time you’ve reached 70 years, it will have fallen by 63%. It plays a vital role in our overall health and can be rightly touted as “longevity peptide”. You can take daily carnosine supplements for anti-ageing inside out, and you can look for products containing the longevity molecule.

If you’ve questions or thoughts about the benefits of carnosine, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Save Ingredient Spotlight: What Can Carnosine Do For Your Skin? for later

Leave a Reply