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Eat Your Way to Smooth, Radiant Skin?
Five food factors that can enhance – or undermine – your skin’s health and appearance 03/30/2016 By Michelle Lee and Craig Weatherby
Concerned about keeping your youthful glow?
If you're like most folks, the truest signs of gradual aging are in the changes to your skin.
As we age, our skin becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth.
Adding insult to injury, veins show up more and it takes longer to heal from everyday bumps and bruises.
Years of sun exposure can lead to wrinkles, age spots and dryness, all of which leave you looking less youthful.
But there's a lot you can do to keep your skin looking healthier and more radiant.
Just like the rest of your body, your skin will respond to being well fed!
Let's take a closer look at food choices that can help you look your best and feel confidant.
#1: Fight dryness and sun damage with fish fats
The outermost layer of skin, the epidermis, becomes thinner with age.
So it gets harder for the skin to retain moisture, leading to dry, flaky, and wrinkled skin.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fatty, wild-caught fish help the epidermis hold moisture for smoother, softer skin.
In addition, omega-3s appear exert anti-inflammatory effects that reduce the damage done to skin cells by UV sunrays, and thereby discourage the development of cancerous cells.
Clinical research indicates that seafood-source omega-3s may help prevent non-melanoma skin cancer ... see Fish Oil Found to Deflect Sun Damage and Fish Fat Curbs Skin and Oral Cancers.
In contrast, the excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids that typifies the standard American diet speeds aging of the skin by promoting inflammation.
Most of those omega-6 fats come from the cheap vegetable oils used in packaged, fried, restaurant, and fast foods, as well as in many home kitchens (corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower).
#2: Discourage skin damage with colorful veggies
Your skin is constantly undermined by free radicals generated by exposure to sunlight, air pollutants, and chemicals.
These unstable oxygen molecules damage skin cells and stimulate inflammation, which generates even more free radicals and promotes premature aging of the skin.
And your body's ability to produce its own antioxidants – which neutralize free radicals – can diminish with age.
Luckily, you can boost your body's "antioxidant capacity" through a healthy diet full of vibrant, colorful fruits and vegetables.
The authors of an evidence review published earlier this month noted that a wide variety of food-borne antioxidants are proven to protect skin against damage from UV sunrays (Pandel R et al. 2013):
  • Genistein – soy foods
  • Coenzyme Q – fish, beef, poultry
  • Flavonoids – colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Lycopene – tomato products and watermelon
  • Glutathione* – garlic, cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli,, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
  • Selenium – wild seafood, garlic, grass-fed beef, poultry, eggs
*Glutathione isn't found in foods, but body levels can be raised by eating sulfurous vegetables such as these.
What are your best source of antioxidants?
Go for rich color – many of the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are also powerfully healthful pigments.
#3: Boost collagen and skin elasticity with soy
Preliminary research suggests that a diet rich in the antioxidant soybean compounds called isoflavones may improve skin quality ... particularly in post-menopausal women.
A recent clinical trial in 30 such women examined their skin before and after they'd consumed a soy concentrate rich in isoflavones for six months.
At the end of the study, over 70% of the women had thicker skin, less wrinkling, and higher levels of elastic fibers and collagen.
And a study in human skin cells study found that soy isoflavones worked similarly to topical retinoids (such as Retin-A) as an anti-aging skin treatment … without the light-sensitivity that comes with Retin-A treatment.
Soy isoflavones are available as supplements, but Dr. Andrew Weil and other experts recommend whole soy foods over supplements and processed soy foods such as soy milk and soy protein.
Whole soy foods include tofu, tempeh, miso, and edamame (boiled or steamed soybean pods).
#4: Sugars and starches aggravate acne
The glycemic index is a measure of how much a food impacts your blood sugar levels.
Several studies show that diets dominated by foods with higher glycemic indices may contribute to and trigger acne.
One clinical study in 23 young men found that eating a low-glycemic-index diet improved their acne within 12 weeks, while also reducing inflammation in their skin and acne lesions.
High-carb foods with a low glycemic index include:
  • Colorful, fibrous vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Most fruits, including apples, pears, peaches and grapefruit
High-carb foods with a high glycemic index include:
  • Packaged cereals
  • Crackers
  • Instant oats
  • Baked goods
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • White potatoes
You'll find lists of low-, medium-, and high-GI foods and related glycemic load (GL) information at the University of Sydney's GI Group.
We also recommend the University of Oregon chart, "Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods”.
#5: Can dietary collagen rejuvenate skin?
Few skin-enhancement claims incite more controversy than ones made for dietary collagen.
Researchers have generally dismissed them, because the body breaks collagen into amino acids that don't specifically travel to the skin.
But intriguing new clinical research suggests that collagen-peptide supplements can rejuvenate skin, which suggests that collagen-rich foods might also bring some benefits.
Back in 2014, researchers at Germany's University of Kiel published the results of two separate clinical trials that involved a total of 183 women aged 35 to 65.
In these double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, women took hefty doses (2.5 to 5 grams) of a specific hydrolyzed-collagen supplement once a day.
(The process of hydrolysis breaks collagen down into smaller pieces called peptides, "which are more "bioavailable” than the whole collagen in foods such as bone broths.)
In one trial, the German researchers measured a 20 percent reduction in wrinkle depth around the women's eyes after 8 weeks of taking the collagen-peptide supplement.
And their body levels of procollagen – the precursor to collagen – rose by surprising 65 percent.
Although it seemed improbable, these special collagen-peptide supplements rejuvenated the participants' skin to a remarkable extent.
The question remains whether the whole collagen in foods such as bone broth would have similar effects … but these findings raise that real possibility.
  • Accorsi-Neto, Alfeu et al. Effects of Isoflavones on the Skin of Postmenopausal Women: A Pilot Study. Clinics (Sao Paulo, Brazil) 64.6 (2009): 505–510. PMC. Web. 25 Mar. 2016.
  • Black HS, Rhodes LE. The potential of omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer. Cancer Detect Prev. 2006;30(3):224-32. Epub 2006 Jul 26.
  • Bosch R, Philips N, Suárez-Pérez JA, Juarranz A, Devmurari A, Chalensouk-Khaosaat J, González S. Mechanisms of Photoaging and Cutaneous Photocarcinogenesis, and Photoprotective Strategies with Phytochemicals. Antioxidants (Basel). 2015 Mar 26;4(2):248-68. doi: 10.3390/antiox4020248. Review.
  • Emerit I. Free radicals and aging of the skin. EXS. 1992;62:328-41. Review.
  • Godic A, Poljšak B, Adamic M, Dahmane R. The role of antioxidants in skin cancer prevention and treatment. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014;2014:860479. doi: 10.1155/2014/860479. Epub 2014 Mar 26. Review.
  • Pandel R, Poljšak B, Godic A, Dahmane R. Skin photoaging and the role of antioxidants in its prevention. ISRN Dermatol. 2013 Sep 12;2013:930164. doi: 10.1155/2013/930164. Review.
  • Park NH, Park JS, Kang YG, Bae JH, Lee HK, Yeom MH, Cho JC, Na YJ. Soybean extract showed modulation of retinoic acid-related gene expression of skin and photo-protective effects in keratinocytes. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013Apr;35(2):136-42. doi: 10.1111/ics.12014. Epub 2012 Nov 20.
  • Poljšak B, Dahmane R. Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging. Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging. Dermatol Res Pract. 2012;2012:135206. doi: 10.1155/2012/135206. Epub 2012 Feb 29.
  • Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-9. doi: 10.1159/000355523. Epub 2013 Dec 24.
  • Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi: 10.1159/000351376. Epub 2013 Aug 14.
  • Smith R, Mann N, Mäkeläinen H, Roper J, Braue A, Varigos G. A pilot study to determine the short-term effects of a low glycemic load diet on hormonal markers of acne: a nonrandomized, parallel, controlled feeding trial. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Jun;52(6):718-26. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200700307.
  • Smith RN, Braue A, Varigos GA, Mann NJ. The effect of a low glycemic load diet on acne vulgaris and the fatty acid composition of skin surface triglycerides. J Dermatol Sci. 2008 Apr;50(1):41-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2007.11.005. Epub 2008 Jan 4.
  • Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, Mäkeläinen H, Varigos GA. A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jul;86(1):107-15.
  • Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, Mäkeläinen H, Varigos GA. The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 Aug;57(2):247-56. Epub 2007 Apr 19.
  • Terra VA, Souza-Neto FP, Frade MA, Ramalho LN, Andrade TA, Pasta AA, Conchon AC, Guedes FA, Luiz RC, Cecchini R, Cecchini AL. Genistein prevents ultraviolet B radiation-induced nitrosative skin injury and promotes cell proliferation. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2015 Mar;144:20-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2015.01.013. Epub 2015 Feb 2.

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