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Can Eating More Fruits and Vegetables Slow Skin Aging?

Skin aging

Are you eating your fruits and veggies? There are many reasons to add more fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods to your plate. Why be a fruit and veggie lover? Studies show eating a diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables each day may lower the risk of chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. They’re even good for your mental health. But there’s another organ that a produce-rich diet may benefit – your skin, the largest organ in your body.

The skin, or integumentary system, is the most visible organ and one that has several important functions; it’s a protective barrier to the outside and helps shield against the harmful effects of heat, cold, drying air, and other environmental factors. The skin also helps to regulate body temperature by releasing heat if your hot and keeps out harmful substances and damage from sun exposure.

Thanks to melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color, you have some protection against the damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun. Melanin absorbs some of the UV light that hits your skin, so it does less damage. That’s why people with darker skin have skin that ages slower. Since skin is so visible, it shows signs of aging. Younger people have skin with healthy collagen and elastin that gives their skin a smooth, firm, wrinkle-free appearance with a healthy glow. Of course, people of all ages would like to have skin that looks like that! Can eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables help?

Produce-Rich Diets and Skin Aging

A study published in the German journal The Dermatologist found that people who had higher antioxidant levels in their skin had fewer wrinkles. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants but so are other plant-based foods, including nuts, whole grains, and spices. Plus, research shows that people who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet have higher concentrations of antioxidants in their skin.

Other research published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the skin characteristics of 716 Japanese women, specifically how many wrinkles they had and their depth. The study found that consuming more green and yellow vegetables, including leafy greens and total fat was linked with fewer wrinkles and better skin elasticity.

How Might Fruits and Vegetables Delay Skin Aging?

Much of skin aging comes from exposure to the ultraviolet light from the sun. UV light damages collagen and elastin, two proteins that keep skin firm and youthful. The way ultraviolet light injures elastin and collagen is through free radical damage. Lifestyle habits matter too. For example, smoking is especially damaging to the integrity of the skin, as it causes oxidative damage.

How might a produce-rich diet slow skin aging? Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, natural substances that reduce oxidative stress that damages the skin and other tissues. Some of these are vitamins, including vitamins A, C, and E, while others are phytonutrients, compounds with antioxidant properties. Plus, vegetables and fruits are a rich source of anti-inflammatory compounds. That’s important since inflammation also plays a role in skin aging.

Certain types of produce may have distinct anti-aging benefits. For example, red fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, watermelon, guavas, and apricots, are rich in lycopene. Studies show that lycopene, another antioxidant, has similar effects to sunscreen with a sun-protection factor of 1.3. You should still wear sunscreen to protect against the aging effects of the sun but eating a lycopene-rich diet may give your skin extra protection against the sun’s damaging rays.

Another factor that contributes to skin aging is glycation, a process where advanced glycation end products form. What are AGEs? They are cross-links that form in collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm and youthful. This damages the collagen and makes it less effective at supporting your skin and resisting wrinkles. High blood sugar levels and certain types of cooking increase AGEs, including frying, roasting, and grilling. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce glycation, along with consuming certain spices, including ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and cloves.

The Bottom Line

Everything that you do in your daily routine influences the way your skin looks. And eating a healthy diet is no exception. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that contribute to better-looking skin by fighting damage from the sun, pollution, and other free radicals experienced naturally in your environment. They also provide anti-inflammatory properties from vitamins A, C, and E, and other natural compounds in fruits and vegetables.

There are other perks of adding more vegetables and fruit to your plate.  A healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. It may also help with weight loss since veggies and fruits are nutrient-dense but low in calories.

If you want fewer wrinkles on your face, eating a healthy diet can only help. The benefits are not limited to just skin appearance. Your health overall will benefit from eating a healthy diet. Most people don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet anyway, so adding a few more will only help. However, take other measures to protect against skin aging, including wearing a sunscreen.

 

References:

  • “Study: 5 Servings a Day of Fruits and Vegetables Increase ….” https://www.newsmax.com/health/health-news/fruits-vegetables-longevity-food/2021/03/01/id/1011941/.
  • “Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant ….” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20085665/.
  • Schagen SK, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):298-307. doi:10.4161/derm.22876.
  • The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 86, Issue 4, October 2007, Pages 1225–1231, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/86.4.1225.
  • “8 Essential Skin Functions | New Health Advisor.” 11 Apr. 2021, https://www.newhealthadvisor.org/Functions-of-the-Skin.html.
  • Nagata C, Nakamura K, Wada K, Oba S, Hayashi M, Takeda N, Yasuda K. Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women. Br J Nutr. 2010 May;103(10):1493-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509993461. Epub 2010 Jan 20. PMID: 20085665.
  • Nagata C, Nakamura K, Wada K, Oba S, Hayashi M, Takeda N, Yasuda K. Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women. Br J Nutr. 2010 May;103(10):1493-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509993461. Epub 2010 Jan 20. PMID: 20085665.
  • Corstjens H, Dicanio D, Muizzuddin N, Neven A, Sparacio R, Declercq L, Maes D. Glycation associated skin autofluorescence and skin elasticity are related to chronological age and body mass index of healthy subjects. Exp Gerontol. 2008 Jul;43(7):663-7. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2008.01.012. Epub 2008 Feb 9. PMID: 18334287.

 

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