An introduction to ageing skin and diet
It’s not exactly a secret that, as we age, our demand for certain nutrients such as protein, magnesium and vitamin D increases, sometimes dramatically. Our skin is no exception - our production of collagen, elastin and sebum oil will naturally start to slow down but these key structural functions are also dependant on certain nutrients, such as vitamin C and omega 3.
This can be problematic though for a number of reasons; firstly, as we age, although our need for nutrients increases, our calorific intake decreases meaning that we no longer need to eat as much. This gives us fewer opportunities to get more nutrients into our body but, there’s also the additional problem of our digestive system. Issues such as atrophic gastritis, acid reflux and inflammation can also become more prevalent as we age and these conditions all have the ability to impair our absorption of certain nutrients.
Finally, it’s also worth considering that premature ageing can sometimes occur due to nutritional deficiencies too. For example, one of the reasons that smoking is such as a huge trigger of premature ageing is because the chemicals contained in cigarettes not only inhibit the flow of blood to our skin, causing wrinkles, but they also deplete our stores of collagen-boosting vitamin C!
The best nutrients for ageing skin
Although we shall be covering a list of which nutrients are best for ageing skin, it’s important to note that ideally, our diets should contain a wide range of nutrients.
We should all be aiming to eat a rainbow – a variety of different, colourful fruits and vegetables, plenty of lean sources of protein, wholegrain carbohydrates and healthy fats. The nutrients below are just my personal top picks for ageing skin but it’s best to treat them as a guideline.
Vitamin A is an important antioxidant that can help to protect your skin from free radical damage and oxidative stress, a major cause of premature ageing. Topical vitamin creams, or retinols, also have a long history with ageing, with studies finding that they may help to improve wrinkles and fine lines.1 However, vitamin A really shines when it comes to healthy cell production and preventing the breakdown of collagen.
Collagen is an integral structural protein not only for our skin, but also for our muscles and bones. Collagen is what gives our skin its strength and elasticity but unfortunately, as we age, our production of collagen can slow so vitamin A’s role in preventing collagen degradation takes on a whole new importance. Vitamin A is also known to help repair damaged skin cells and can even support your dermis, a secondary layer of skin under your epidermis where your blood vessels are located!
Fortunately, you won’t struggle to find dietary sources of vitamin A. Everything from carrots to kale to eggs contain vitamin A. Vitamin A is also what makes Biotta’s Carrot Juice so good for your skin as it contains plenty of beta-carotene, which your body can convert into vitamin A and utilise to protect your skin from premature ageing.
Best sources: Carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, egg yolks, kale, butternut squash
Sweet Potato & Kale Soup
Peppers Stuffed with Lentils
Vitamin C is incredibly important when it comes to ageing skin as, not only can it act as an antioxidant, it can also help to promote our production of collagen. As we age our production of collagen will naturally slow down which is why our skin can lose its integrity and become noticeably weaker.
While it’s not possible to completely reverse this process, vitamin C can still help as it is essential for collagen synthesis.2 If we didn’t have an adequate intake of vitamin C, our bodies would be unable to store collagen which would definitely upset more mature skin and prematurely age younger skin. The good news is that vitamin C is widely available in our diet – you can find vitamin C in citrus fruits such as lemons, leafy greens like spinach and a plethora of other foods such as bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli etc.
Here at A.Vogel we even offer a natural vitamin C supplement, Nature-C, which is made using the extracts of vitamin c rich fruits. However, increasing your dietary intake is still the best option!
Best sources: guava, blackcurrants, strawberries, oranges, papaya, kiwis, kale
Blueberry & Kiwi Smoothie
Kale & Cranberry Salad
Vitamin E is an extremely important antioxidant that works to protect your cell membranes, helping to prevent and repair any damage. This fat soluble vitamin also helps to hydrate your skin, which can be really beneficial as mature skin is often more prone to dryness and even flare-ups. Vitamin E is also a natural anti-inflammatory which means that it can ease inflamed redness and irritation.
Better still, according to Webmd, new studies suggest that vitamin E may help inactive free radicals, making them less likely to cause the damage responsible for premature ageing!3 Similar to vitamin C, our bodies cannot synthesise vitamin E on their own so we are entirely dependent on our diets to get our recommended intake. Foods such as nut oils, avocados and fatty fish are usually high in vitamin E and you can also find plenty of vitamin E in our Wheat Germ Oil supplement.
Best sources: Avocados, almonds, bell peppers, rainbow trout, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, wheat germ oil.
Spicy Guacamole Dips
Pineapple & Avocado Smoothie
Omega 3 is often associated with ageing as its important for supporting healthy brain function and now studies have found that omega 3 could even prevent your cells from ageing as it helps to preserve tiny segments of DNA called telomeres.4 Omega 3 can also help to combat oxidative stress and is known to ease inflammation, soothing delicate, inflamed skin.
It’s even able to help your skin cells to retain water – a big benefit as dry, dehydrated skin is often more vulnerable to wrinkles and flare-ups. The only real problem with omega 3 is that it is more readily available in animal-based food products such as oily fish and eggs. However, some nuts and fruit do contain ALA, a type of omega 3 fatty acid that can be converted into EPA and DHA, the more useful forms of omega 3.
Best sources: Salmon, walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds, flaxseeds, mackerel, canola oil
Cinnamon and Chia Seed Energy Balls
Marinated Tofu Stir Fry
Foods that may upset your ageing skin
So, as we’ve discussed, a balanced diet that incorporates a wide range of foods is always best but, unfortunately, sometimes our diets can become restricted, especially given that most of us simply don’t have the time to prepare a fresh meal from scratch every night.
This means that we probably all take shortcuts, relying on ready-made meals and freezer food throughout the week. However, as we shall discuss, while these types of food are fine as the occasional quick-fix, certain foods that are commonplace in our diets can really age our skin.
Who doesn’t enjoy a nice glass of wine or the occasional cocktail? There’s nothing wrong with alcohol in moderation but moderation really is the key word here. There’s probably no need to go into why alcohol can be so damaging for our bodies – by now most of us are aware of the health risks. However, many of us aren’t aware of the affect that it can have on our skin.
Firstly, alcohol can act a diuretic, meaning it will make us more vulnerable to dehydration, which is never good news for our skin. It can also deplete our bodies of certain vitamins and minerals, including skin-boosting vitamin C, magnesium, zinc and even essential fatty acids like omega 3!5
The loss of these antioxidants and nutrients will almost certainly make our skin more susceptible to free radical damage and premature ageing but alcohol isn’t done yet! It can also act as an inflammatory agent, sometimes dilating your blood vessels which can cause fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues or, if rosacea is a problem, it will almost certainly inspire a flare-up!
Sugar really is everywhere, even in foods we wouldn’t expect such as bread, bottled sauces, breakfast cereals and yoghurts. This can mean that even if we’re trying to eat healthy, if we’re not label savvy we can still end up consuming a lot more sugar than we had intended. But why is sugar so bad for our skin? Well, we do discuss this issue in our blog, 'The bitter truth about sugar and your skin' but unsurprisingly the answer involves our blood sugar levels.
When we consume too much sugar it causes our blood sugar levels to spike which in turn triggers an inflammatory reaction. This reaction can sometimes even breakdown collagen, which as we discussed earlier, is absolutely critical for ageing skin. It doesn’t help that sugar can also react with other proteins in your body, creating advanced glycation end-products, aptly abbreviated as AGEs. These substances can cause signs of premature ageing to appear such as wrinkles and fine lines.6
Processed meats, such as bacon, sausages, corned beef and ham have usually been modified to extend their shelf life and therefore contain a whole host of added salts and preservatives. It’s these added salts and preservatives that are the real problem for ageing skin as salt, or sodium, can make your body retain more water which can cause your skin to appear puffy and swollen. The preservatives can also stimulate inflammation, which is never good news for our skin, especially if we suffer from a condition such as eczema or psoriasis.
When it comes to meat, organic and unprocessed is always best. Leaner meats such as chicken and turkey are considerably lower in fats and can sometimes be a good source of nutrients, such as selenium and certain B vitamins. In fact, ideally meat should be used to flavour dishes rather than being the main event, as our nutritionist Emma explores in her blog ‘What are the world’s healthiest diets?’, so it’s always worth exploring other meat-free alternatives from time to time, such as tofu.
Trans fats have been a major buzzword in the media in recent years but what exactly are they? Well, the term ‘trans fats’ usually refers to artificial trans fatty acids which have been altered to remain more solid at room temperature. This means that they usually last longer than traditional fats and so trans fats have made their way into a number of food products, from chips to margarine to cake frosting.
The real health risk with trans fats is that they can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol, making them a big trigger of cardiovascular disease. Since trans fats can clog your arteries and affect your blood vessels, they’re also more than capable of promoting inflammation and, according to one study, may even increase your vulnerability to UV radiation, a huge cause of premature ageing!7