Ageing skin can be induced by several factors, including chronic sun exposure, dryness, exposure to pollution and smoke, poor sleep and poor nutrition. Whilst we’ve all heard the phrase ‘you are what you eat’, some studies suggest that food could possibly delay the aging process and improve the condition of our skin…
1. Kiwi fruit
Did you know that kiwi fruit has almost double the amount of vitamin C per 100g in comparison to oranges? Vitamin C is a critical nutrient required for collagen production and if there is one thing that keeps skin looking youthful and supple, it’s collagen. Collagen is the structural component of skin and as we age production declines which can lead to wrinkle formation and sagging skin. In fact Vitamin C is so critical in skin health that deficiencies can lead to skin fragility and impaired wound healing.
One interesting study using existing data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) looked into the association between nutrient intakes and skin aging in 4025 women aged 40-75 years of age. Clinical examinations of the skin were conducted by dermatologists and a higher dietary intake of Vitamin C was associated with a lower likelihood of wrinkled appearance and senile dryness. 1
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, with high concentrations being found within the skin. This nutrient can help to protect against environmental factors, which can speed up the aging process such as sun damage. Whilst there is no clear evidence or consensus of the ‘optimal’ dose of vitamin C in relation to its ‘anti-ageing’ effects, regular consumption of Vitamin C rich foods such as kiwi fruit is essential for long-term health.
2. Green and Yellow Vegetables
It’s been estimated that three quarters of adults within the UK are failing to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables each day and one exciting study indicates that this may have a negative impact on aging skin. 2
This cross-sectional study measured the skin hydration levels and elasticity of 716 Japanese women. The extent of facial wrinkles in the crows-foot area was determined by observation using the Daniell scale. The study concluded that a higher intake of green and yellow vegetables (2 or more servings per day) was associated with a decreased wrinkling score. 3
Further research needs to be conducted before we can confirm whether these vegetables can slow the ageing process or even turn back the clocks, however few would argue with the fact that we could all do with a little more green within our diet.
3. Wild Salmon
Astaxanthin is an antioxidant, which is responsible for wild salmons bright pink colour and is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
A 16-week study involving 65 healthy female participants were split into 3 groups and were given a 6mg, 12mg dose of astaxanthin or a placebo. Wrinkle parameters and skin moisture content significantly worsened in the placebo group and low dose group after 16 weeks. However significant changes to skin health did not occur in the astaxanthin group. The study concluded that astaxanthin supplementation might inhibit age-related skin deterioration. 4
Whilst this is certainly exciting preliminary research, it’s important to remember that as much as 250g wild sockeye salmon would need to be consumed daily just to reach levels found within this study which would exceed our weekly recommended intake of oily fish. 5
4. Sweet potato
The bright orange hue of sweet potato comes from an antioxidant called beta-carotene. Sun damage is one of the biggest causes of premature skin aging and research suggests that beta-carotene may play a role with protecting the skin against harmful free radicals found in UV sun radiation. Whilst it certainly can’t compare to sunscreen, there is evidence that beta carotene may play a role with protecting against sunburn, which ultimately would otherwise lead to wrinkle formation. 6
Interestingly beta-carotene isn’t just found in sweet potato, it’s also found in other orange
and green vegetable such as carrots, butternut squash and spinach. Since beta carotene
is a fat soluble antioxidant, for optimal absorption it’s best consumed alongside healthy
fats such as olive oil
5. Green tea
Green tea comes with a high antioxidant score and one study found that these antioxidants were able to protect against ageing UV sun radiation whilst helping to improve the skin quality of women.
In this 12 week, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study, tea-drinking volunteers noted a 16% reduction in skin roughness, 25% reduction in scaling, improved skin elasticity and hydration. 7
Before we start glugging back the green tea, it would be great to see these results replicated in studies with a larger sample size.
6. Olive oil
Olive oil is a rich source healthy monounsaturated fats and research suggests that regular consumption is significantly associated with skin elasticity and firmness. 8
One large study of 1264 women and 1655 men aged 45-60, showed that dietary intakes of monounsaturated fats derived from olive oil were least likely to have sun damaged and had reduced risk of facial photo ageing. 9
There is a wealth of evidence supporting the benefits of replacing saturated fat within our diet with monounsaturated fat such as olive oil for all aspects of health.
Whilst it’s tempting to get sucked into the idea that there is one miracle food, which will turn back the clocks and leave us with smoother wrinkle-free skin, unfortunately there is limited research linking specific foods with anti-aging properties. There is however more research linking antioxidant nutrients to collagen production and protection against environmental factors such as sun damage, which ultimately slows the ageing process. It appears that the key to aging gracefully could be as simple as incorporating a more healthy fats and a wider range of rainbow coloured fruit and vegetables within the diet.
1. Cosgrove, M. C., Franco, O. H., Granger, S. P., Murray, P. G. & Mayes, A. E. (2007). Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Am J Clin Nutr, 86 (4), 1225-31.
2. Bodkin, H. (2017). Just one in four adults eating their five a day, NHS reveals. URL: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/30/just-one-four-adults-eating-five-day-nhs-reveals/ [5th March].
3. Nagata, C., Nakamura, K., Wada, K., Oba, S., Hayashi, M., Takeda, N. & Yasuda, K. (2010). Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women. Br J Nutr, 103 (10), 1493-8.
4. Tominaga, K., Hongo, N., Fujishita, M., Takahashi, Y. & Adachi, Y. (2017). Protective effects of astaxanthin on skin deterioration. J Clin Biochem Nutr, 61 (1), 33-39.
5. Seabra , L. M. A. J. & Pedrosa , L. F. t. C. (2012). Astaxanthin: structural and functional aspects. 23.
6. Schagen, S. K., Zampeli, V. A., Makrantonaki, E. & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol, 4 (3), 298-307.
7. Heinrich, U., Moore, C. E., Spirt, S. D., Tronnier, H. & Stahl, W. (2018). Green Tea Polyphenols Provide Photoprotection, Increase Microcirculation, and Modulate Skin Properties of Women. The Journal of Nutrition [5th March].
8. Latreille, J., Kesse-Guyot, E., Malvy, D., Andreeva, V., Galan, P., Tschachler, E., Hercberg, S., Guinot, C. & Ezzedine, K. (2012). Dietary monounsaturated fatty acids intake and risk of skin photoaging. PLoS One, 7 (9), e44490.
Lily Soutter, Nutritionist BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition, Dip ION
Lily graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Food and Human Nutrition (AfN accredited) where she was awarded the Sage Faculty for Excellence Scholarship. She then went on to gain a Nutritional Therapy Diploma from the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. Lily’s extensive knowledge of the science of food and health, enables her to regularly write for The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Independent, Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan. Her frequent TV appearances include ITV’s primetime series Save Money: Lose Weight with Dr. Ranj Singh. Lily sees clients from her clinic in Chelsea and from the Portobello Clinic, a private medical practice based in Notting Hill.