Want to slow down the ageing process?
The good news is that the way you eat, move and think every day has more of an impact on your ability to age well than the most expensive creams and lotions.
If you want to slow down the accumulation of wrinkles or age spots then here are a few factors you may want to consider:
Is your skin under constant assault?
Pollution, fried or chargrilled foods, smoking, regularly eating refined oils and sun exposure are just some of the causes of premature ageing of the skin. Some of these we may not be able to change but many we can.
Do you have a normal “healthy” diet?
One of the biggest health myths is that a healthy diet involves lots of naturally high sugar foods. Naturally high sugar foods include bread (including wholegrain), pasta, rice, potatoes, dried fruits, fruit juice and fruit smoothies. Today’s average breakfast of wholegrain toast and tea, coffee or juice or a fruit smoothie, or a bowl of porridge with fruit is a naturally high sugar meal. After the meal, your blood sugar levels rise quite high, and this causes skin damage. How? It’s all about advanced glycosolation end products (AGEs for short). AGEs are produced when sugars in your blood bond to proteins. Collagen is an example of a protein that becomes glycosolated in the presence of high blood sugar. When collagen becomes glycosolated it loses its ability to keep your skin elastic and wrinkle free. These glycosolated proteins never regain their function. This damaging process happens in an exaggerated way in a person with diabetes but also occurs in people with “normal” blood sugar levels. A cornerstone of slowing the ageing process is to maintain moderate blood sugar levels with no sharp peaks and dips. Doing this is also important if you want to boost energy and reduce stress.
Are you antioxidant-rich?
Did you know that a diet rich in antioxidants from herbs, spices, green and multicoloured vegetables, with just small amounts of fresh fruit is important for building and maintaining collagen Colagen helps our skin look plump and smooth. When this collagen layer become damaged, this leads to wrinkles. Other antioxidants such as natural selenium and zinc from eating enough high-quality protein are also key to maintaining a youthful appearance. Regular intake of stimulants, alcohol and a high GI diets all deplete antioxidants. Bioflavonoids (plant antioxidants from herbs and spices, green and multicoloured veg and certain fruits) have been shown to significantly reduce facial hyperpigmentation. Those age spots (hyperpigmentation) are made from a build up of damaged fats under your skin. They contain toxins such as mercury and aluminium too. A low antioxidant (or highly processed ) diet is one of the ways fats in your body become damaged. If you have a low antioxidant diet you will also struggle to clear toxic metals out of your body, hence the build up. The name given to the damaged fats in age spots is lipofuchsin. Supporting your body’s detoxification mechanisms with foods rich in B vitamins and antioxadants can often help fade these age spots, especially on the hands.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed higher intakes of vitamin C and linoleic acid to be associated with better skin-ageing appearance1. In particular, lower intakes of vitamin C in the diet were significantly associated with the prevalance of wrinkles. Linoleic acid is found in raw nuts and seeds such as sunflower, hazelnut, hemp, sesame and almond.
Do you like to cook your food until it’s browned?
When meat or fish is cooked at high temperatures it normally generates toxic substances called heterocyclic amines. When you eat these heterocyclic amines, this causes a measurable rise in oxidative stress (damage) and inflammation in your body. The damage is most visible in your skin as you age, but it is also happening in your arteries, veins, kidneys, brain – all over your body. By using smart but simple cooking techniques or adding certain herbs and spices to your food before cooking you can dramatically reduce the amount of heterocyclic amines you eat in every mouthful2. This also great news for your heart health.
Are you stressed?
Stress rapidly depletes the body of vast quantities of the vitamin C needed for collagen. If you don’t exercise or your diet is low in certain vitamins and minerals (e.g. B vitamins and magnesium) you may react stressfully to things that previously would not have bothered you. If you are going through a stressful life event you will use up calming nutrients at a faster rate. This causes a shortfall of calming nutrients, resulting in increased stress. Diet and lifestyle interventions are very powerful ways to get your stress under control.
Do you get enough E?
If you have very low fat diet then you will be low in vitamin E. Vitamin E is vital for skin elasticity because it prevents the collapse of collagen. Vitamin C rich foods are needed in the diet to utilise vitamin E properly as the two vitamins work in tandem. Vitamin E from supplements is often of limited benefit as most supplements do not contain a wide spectrum of the tocotrienols and tocopherols like that found in natural vitamin E foods. Smoking and refined oils from confectionery/shop biscuits and cakes and ready meals destroy vitamin E. Vitamin E levels in the skin decline with UV exposure. Foods that are rich in vitamin E include (uncooked) extra virgin olive oil, avocados and (raw) almonds. Many people avoid these for fear of weight gain. Eating healthy oils does not cause weight gain unless you also eat a very high carbohydrate diet.
Do you smoke?
As every dermatologist knows, smoking damages the collagen in your skin. Result: wrinkles. Every cigarette uses up a minimum of 40 milligrams of vitamin C and without enough vitamin C, collagen production collapses. Smoking also destroys vitamin E, which is needed for vitamin C to work properly. The by-products of cigarette smoke also mean your liver uses up more B vitamins to clear the toxic waste. Without sufficient B vitamins, hyperpigmentation will increase. Low B vitamins also make you more likely to feel stressed or suffer from mood disorders. Tackling nutrient deficiencies is a great way to support you to quit the cigarettes.
H2O – are you getting enough?
Not a lot of people realise that tea, coffee, fruit juice, dried fruit and sugary foods increase our body’s requirement for water. Try this test – pinch the skin on the back of your hand for a moment. Let go, if it takes more than half a second to spring back to normal then you could be very dehydrated. If there is one sure way of plumping out your skin, its being well hydrated.
 Cosgrove MC et al, 2007. Study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
 Henning, Zhang et al (2013) Decrease of postprandial endothelial dysfunction by spice mix added to high-fat hamburger meat in men with Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabet. Med. 30:590-595.