Every year students in the UBC dietetics program are required to write an article on nutrition for the public. I’m always happy to offer an opportunity for the students to write for you. They do a great job of researching a topic that you’ve been asking me about. This year I asked students Julia Chien and Raman Rattanpal to look into what foods can help improve the look of our skin. There’s been a lot of coverage in the media about nutrition helpers for collagen and I wanted to know the lowdown on what scientific evidence existed. Read on to find out what Raman and Julia discovered about foods to prevent skin aging.
How Does Our Skin Age?
Because skin is the largest visible organ, it is often the most noticeable sign of aging. Skin aging is affected by both genetic and environmental factors. Environmental factors primarily include chronic sun exposure, smoking, sleep deprivation, and inadequate nutrition. As women age, decreasing estrogen levels also negatively affects skin. These factors contribute to the development of skin wrinkles and reduction of skin elasticity through the breakdown of collagen and elastic fibres in aging skin.
I’m sure that you’re not surprised about smoking and sun exposure being on this list. Add the effect on your skin to the list of reasons why it’s important for you to get some sleep.
Here’s the details on foods and beverages:
- Vitamin C-Rich Foods
e.g. Bell peppers, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, strawberries
- Promote collagen synthesis: Vitamin C regulates collagen, an important protein necessary for stability of the skin and reduction of wrinkling.
- Act as a depigmenting agent: Melanin is a pigment that gives colour to skin. Higher intakes of Vitamin C foods help with reducing dark spots or hyperpigmentation of the skin by decreasing the formation of melanin.
- Improves skin thickness: A naturally occurring compound called isoflavones are found in foods such as tofu. Isoflavones promote cell growth by interacting with estrogen, resulting in improved skin structure and strength.
- Improves skin elasticity: Isoflavones also impact skin elasticity by increasing collagen and elastin fibres.
3. Bone Broth
- No scientific evidence: Although bone broth contains collagen, dietary collagen is not delivered straight to your skin after it is absorbed. Similar to other proteins, collagen is broken down into amino acids and is used by your body as building blocks for other biological processes. There is no evidence to support any anti-aging mechanisms.
- Provides UV protection: Antioxidants are compounds that help protect the skin from premature skin aging. Cocoa, the main constituent in milk and dark chocolate, is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich cocoa consumption has been shown to improve blood flow in the skin and increased protection of UV light. However, the exact mechanisms by which antioxidants promote these effects are still lacking.
5. Green Tea
- Provides UV Protection: Similar to cocoa, antioxidants in green tea have protective effects of the skin against UV light.
- Promotes collagen synthesis: Antioxidants in green tea inhibit collagenases, which are proteins that breakdown collagen in the skin, resulting in anti-wrinkle effects.
Raman & Julia:
We believe a diet containing a variety of fruit and vegetables is the healthiest way to maintain overall health and the appearance of youthful skin. A diet with ample vitamin C-rich foods and tofu benefits not only your skin, but it is also an excellent source of other nutrients and health benefits. On the other hand, there is little evidence in regards to the benefits of consuming bone broth soup for building collagen for the skin. As this is a relatively new food fad, more research is required. For those chocolate lovers out there – it is easy to overindulge while snacking on chocolate, but we recommend enjoying dark chocolate in moderation. Lastly, green tea has been linked to several health benefits including anti-aging effects on skin and it is also a great way to keep hydrated. More research needs to be conducted to draw concrete conclusions about particular foods and aging skin, but it does not hurt to incorporate these foods into a healthy diet.
I agree with Raman and Julia. The evidence is interesting (and hopeful) but far from conclusive for the effect of vitamin C, tofu, chocolate, and green tea on collagen. We know of a whole slew of other positive health effects for fruits and veggies so there’s nothing to lose by eating them. If you enjoy tofu and green tea, I recommend continuing to enjoy them. Maybe they have a positive effect on your skin. I don’t know if we can call chocolate a health food yet, but it certainly is a source of pleasure, so continue to enjoy it. I’m not buying the benefits of bone broth. But if you enjoy drinking it, it’s at least a source of hydration without any sugar or preservatives.