WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Oct. 8, 2007 -- An orange a day may keep the wrinkles away.
In one of the first studies to examine the impact of nutrients from foods
rather than supplements on skin aging, researchers reported that people who ate
plenty of vitamin C-rich foods had fewer wrinkles than people whose diets
contained little of the vitamin.
Diets rich in the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid were also associated with
less skin aging from dryness and thinning, while higher-fat diets and those
higher in carbohydrates were associated with more wrinkling.
Sunflower and safflower oils and many nuts are high in linoleic acid.
Byproducts of linoleic acid are plentiful in salmon and other fatty fish.
The findings are far from conclusive, but they do suggest that when it comes
to skin aging, you truly are what you eat.
“Our findings add evidence to a predominately supplement and topical
application-based hypothesis that what we eat affects our skin-aging
appearance,” nutritional epidemiologist Maeve C. Cosgrove and colleagues write
in the October issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
you take care of your skin? Join the discussion on WebMD's Skin Care: Share
Your Tips message board.)
But a dermatologist and skin-aging expert who spoke to WebMD remains
Susan H. Weinkle, MD, who is a visiting clinical professor of dermatology at
the University of South Florida, says it is difficult, if not impossible, to
prove that specific foods affect wrinkling one way or another.
“Skin aging, especially facial aging, is remarkably multifactorial. It
involves many things including genetics, ultraviolet light exposure, and
lifestyle,” she says.
The study was designed and carried out by researchers from Unilever,
distributor of some 400 food, home cleaning, and personal care products.
The researchers analyzed data from a comprehensive health study conducted in
the United States between 1971 and 1974, known as NHANES I. Their analysis
included 4,025 women between the ages of 40 and 74 who had extensive
dermatologic exams designed to evaluate skin wrinkling and other aspects of
The women also completed a 24-hour recall survey listing all the foods they
ate in a particular day.
After adjusting for other factors likely to influence skin aging, such as
sun exposure and smoking, vitamin C and linoleic acid were independently
associated with skin aging.
Eating a diet low in vitamin C appeared to be a risk factor for wrinkling
and aging-related skin dryness.
This makes sense, the researchers say, because vitamin C is an antioxidant
that has been shown to play a role in the synthesis of collagen, the protein
that helps keep skin elastic.
Higher dietary intake of linoleic acid was associated with a reduced risk of
age-related dryness and thinning of the skin.
After digestion, linoleic acid is converted to DHA and EPA -- two fatty
While the role of linoleic acid in skin aging has not been directly studied,
the researchers note that several studies have suggested that DHA and EPA found
in fish oil can protect against skin aging.
The research spurred a popular “antiaging” diet book touting salmon as a
super-food for warding off wrinkles. The diet calls for at least 10 servings of
salmon a week to reap the skin benefits.
Weinkle says the dermatologic benefits of eating that much fish or any fish
at all have yet to be proven.
“Again, this is very difficult to measure,” she says.
So what can help keep skin looking young for as long as possible? Good genes
play a big role, but so does protecting the skin from damage. Weinkle
SOURCES: Cosgrove, M.C. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
October 2007; vol 86: pp 1225-1231. Maeve C. Cosgrove, nutritional
epidemiologist, corporate research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, England.
Susan Weinkle, MD, visiting clinical professor of dermatology, University of
South Florida, Miami; spokeswoman, American Academy of Dermatology.
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