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The Fight Against Skin Aging: A Review of Diet and Nutraceutical Interventions

shutterstock_31170856-300x214Optimizing skin youthfulness requires a healthful diet further supported by nutritional supplements. This combination can assist with the body’s dietary needs and help to reduce metabolic attacks from internal and external influences.

Nutraceuticals, which are dietary supplements, include a number of vitamins, Coenzyme Q10, essential fatty acids, proteins, peptides, and amino acids. Skin, the largest organ in the body, can suffer from progressive functional and aesthetic decline just as any other organ can. Skin aging is becoming a greater concern for many in this society. There are a number of internal, or intrinsic, factors that can potentially accelerate the aging process, including inflammation, hormone imbalance, and nutritional deficiencies. There are also environmental stressors that can accelerate the aging process, such as sun damage from UV rays, smoking and pollution, lifestyle influences, including lack of sleep or poor sleep, and physical stress. As the body goes through the natural process of aging external factors increasingly impact the body, especially the skin, which strives to maintain a healthy state of equilibrium. UV radiation, particularly UVA rays, produce oxidative effects, which may lead to damage in the lipids, proteins, and DNA of the skin cells.

Physiology of aging. To aid in age-prevention, it can be helpful to understand how aging occurs. Some of the most popular theories of aging include oxidative stress, DNA damage, and telomere shortening. The effect of sugar on premature aging is another evolving area of concern, and the decline in functional hormone levels also has been implicated in accelerating the aging process. Without adequate defenses, free radicals may result in oxidative stress and damage to proteins, DNA, and other cells and tissue responsible for healthy skin and body function.

On the surface, skin aging typically manifests as wrinkles, irregular pigmentation, skin laxity, skin atrophy, and broken capillaries.

Most scientific research into this area aims to slow the effects of extrinsic, or external, aging. Mechanisms to help delay or prevent extrinsic aging include eating a healthy diet, enjoying a balanced lifestyle with proper body care, exercising, and using stress management techniques. As the body ages, oxidative and inflammatory attacks require antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients to preserve the skin’s ability to function in a healthy manner and maintain an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Because endogenous (internal) antioxidant function diminishes with age, supplementation becomes increasingly important. Essential antioxidants include vitamins, amino acids, and other components, such as squalene and coenzyme Q10.

Nutraceuticals have been defined as any food or food ingredient that can provide medical or health benefits.

Vitamin D. The skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D3 naturally declines as the body ages. Excess sun exposure and malnutrition are two factors that can diminish the skin’s ability to synthesize Vitamin D.

Since toxicity from food is very unlikely, Vitamin D consumption through diet should be the first approach for individuals striving to be proactive and using Vitamin D supplementation for anti-aging benefits. Vitamin D2 and D3 can be obtained from dietary intake of foods such as fatty fish or egg yolk. Other foods, like milk and cereal, can also be used for Vitamin D benefits. Additionally, fish oil often contains small doses of Vitamin D content. Dry skin can benefit from topical application of Vitamin D3.

Vitamin A and carotenoids. Retinol and its metabolites must be derived from diet. Food sources with high levels of retinol activity include sweet potatoes, kale, mango, spinach, and papaya. Dietary intake of Vitamin A has been shown to positively affect production of keratins, collagen, and collagenase. Vitamin A contributes to healthy sebum content in the skin and the pH level of the skin’s surface.

Vitamin E. Vitamin E is well studied for its anti-oxidative effects. Of all the tocopherols, alpha-tocopherol, also known as Vitamin E, is the most active and abundant in the human body. As mentioned earlier, Vitamin E works synergistically with Vitamin C. Vitamin E can be found in a variety of vegetables, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, seeds and nuts, and certain meats. Body sorts of Vitamin D dependent dietary intake of these foods. Without appropriate Vitamin D stores, accelerated rates of skin aging may occur.

Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble coenzyme that is produced and originates from within the body. Although coenzyme Q10 is endogenously made and ubiquitous throughout the body, its availability decreases with age. Coenzyme Q10 is involved in collagen and elastin production, and its deficiency leads to older looking, sagging skin. Coenzyme Q10 also can be sourced from foods, such as oily fish, nuts, spinach, organ meats, broccoli, and whole grains. Alternatively, oral supplements can be taken, and are available in daily doses ranging from 30-360 mg. Since coenzyme Q10 is fat-soluble, it absorbs best when taken with fatty meals. Studies have shown that oral coenzyme Q10 of about 50 mg per day may help to protect skin from aging.

Essential fatty acids. Lipids (fat cells) are essential to cell membrane integrity and skin barrier function, which are designed to help keep bad elements out and good ones inside the body. Deficiency of essential fatty acids, or EFAs, has been shown to produce inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne. EFAs must be derived from food or supplements. Common sources of EFAs include vegetable oils, meats (which offer omega-6 fatty acid, from the linoleic acid family), fish oil, walnuts, or green vegetables. Fish oil is most often derived from sources such as mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, and whale blubber.

Proteins peptide and amino acids. Proteins are utilized for a variety of internal body functions, particularly the skin, for structural support, immunity, and repair processes. Proteins are made of eight essential amino acids, and therefore can only be obtained through diet or supplementation. That being said, the skin’s appearance and natural elasticity depend on acquiring the appropriate amounts of these essential amino acids.

Oligo elements. Deficiencies of selenium zinc and iron often manifest as unwanted skin conditions and poor appearance. A potential deficiency should be checked when hair loss, acne, dry skin, and/or poor wound healing occur. Selenium supplementation has been shown to help preserve tissue elasticity.

Key points. Maintaining youthful-looking skin typically requires a healthy, balanced diet and nutritional supplements. Nutritional interventions help to protect the skin against constant physical and metabolic attacks. As the body begins to age, the skin may be met with more challenges, threatening the physiological and structural integrity, which often lead to common signs of aging. Supplementing the skin with antioxidants, nutrients, and enzymatic cofactors are often necessary for maintaining youthful qualities.

For more information about nutraceuticals, nutritional supplements, and other anti-aging methods, or to schedule a complimentary consultation with our doctors, please contact us today.

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