What to Eat For Healthy Skin

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Healthy Skin, What to Eat for Healthy Skin

Beautiful Skin Starts On The Inside

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

What to eat for healthy skin?

what to eat for healthy skinIf you stare into the mirror and think you see your mother or your father staring back, you are not alone. Where did those lines…those crow’s feet…those wrinkles come from? If you are like most of us, you want to do something about it. Americans are expected to spend $11 billion on skincare in 2018.

Great skincare products can work wonders, but are they enough? Are we forgetting something? The answer, of course, is yes. For truly beautiful skin we need to make sure that it also gets the nutrition that it needs. We need to feed it from the inside out.

That’s because skin cells form in the surface of the dermis, the lowest layer of our skin, and are pushed up, layer by layer, until they reach the surface. If you start out with healthy cells in your dermis, all your skincare regimen needs to do is to preserve the health of those cells as they rise to the surface.

Here are some suggestions for creating healthy and beautiful skin cells.

What to Eat For Healthy Skin – Avoid Inflammation

what to eat for healthy skin inflammationLike any other cell in the body, creating healthy skin cells starts with proper diet. I will cover nutrients below, but let’s start out by considering diet and inflammation. Some have gone as far as calling inflammation skin’s number one enemy.

That may be going a bit far. However, inflammation is associated with many skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and chronic dry skin, just to name a few. Inflammation also accelerates the aging process. It does that by increasing cortisol levels, which slows the wound healing process and leads to collagen breakdown. That, in turn, leads to wrinkled and sagging skin.

Inflammation of the outer layers of skin cells is cause by UV radiation. This is where a good anti-aging skincare regimen comes in. Inflammation of the lower layers of skin cells is caused by stress, lack of sleep, obesity, and poor diet, but let’s focus on the role of diet for this article.

Anti-inflammatory diets have become so mainstream that they now appear on reputable health organization websites such as WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic.

So, what to eat for healthy skin? In a nutshell, an anti-inflammatory diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins (like beans and nuts), fatty fish, and fresh herbs and spices. Anti-inflammatory diets do not need to be extreme. For example, a recent study, L. Galland, Nutrition and Clinical Practice, 25: 634-640, 2010 , has shown that the Mediterranean Diet is anti-inflammatory.

Specifically, your diet should emphasize:

Colorful fruits and vegetables. Not only do they help fight inflammation, but they are a great source of antioxidants and other nutrients important for a healthy skin.

Whole grains. They are a good source of fiber, and fiber helps flush inflammatory toxins out of the body.

Beans and other legumes. They should be your primary source of protein. They are high in fiber and contain antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Nuts, olive oil, and avocados. They are good sources of healthy monounsaturated fats, which fight inflammation.

Fatty fish. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are all great sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are incorporated into our cell membranes. Those long-chain omega-3s in cell membranes are, in turn, used to create compounds that are powerful inflammation fighters. Unfortunately, our oceans are heavily contaminated, so omega-3-rich fish are often contaminated with heavy metals and PCBs. Many experts recommend avoiding tuna and farm raised salmon completely and eating wild salmon no more than once or twice a month.

Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are good sources of short-chain omega-3s. Those short-chain omega-3s are heart healthy, but it is unclear to what extent they reduce inflammation. The efficiency of their conversion to long-chain omega-3s that can be incorporated into cell membranes is only around 2-5%. If they fight inflammation, it is probably because they replace some of the saturated fats and omega-6 fats you might otherwise be eating (see the list of foods that increase inflammation below).

Herbs and spices. They add antioxidants and other nutrients that fight inflammation. More importantly, they replace salt. Excess salt can cause you to retain water, which gives your face a puffy look.

In a nutshell, an anti-inflammatory diet should exclude highly processed, overly greasy, or super sweet foods, especially sodas and other sweet drinks.

Specifically, your diet should minimize:

what to eat for healthy skin avoid sugarRefined carbohydrates and sugary foods. These foods are often high in fat as well. They lead to weight gain and high blood sugar, both of which cause inflammation. Sugar also attaches to collagen and elastin, causing your skin to lose its elasticity.

Foods high in saturated fats. This includes fatty and processed meats, butter, and high fat dairy products. That’s because saturated fat causes inflammation.

Foods high in trans-fats. This includes margarine, coffee creamers, and any processed food containing partly hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans-fats are very pro-inflammatory.

French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods. They used to be fried in saturated fat and/or trans-fat. Nowadays, they are generally fried in omega-6 vegetable oils. A little omega-6 in the diet is OK, but Americans get too much omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is pro-inflammatory.

Foods you are allergic or sensitive to. Eating any food that you are sensitive to can cause inflammation. This comes up most often with respect to gluten and dairy because so many people are sensitive to one or both. However, if you are not sensitive to them, there is no reason to exclude whole grain gluten-containing foods or low fat dairy foods from your diet.

What to Eat For Healthy Skin – Nutrients

Like any other cell in the body, healthy skin cells need a proper balance of essential vitamins, minerals, and protein. If you are a vegan or eat a mostly plant-based diet, you might be low in nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, calcium and protein. If you eat a typical American diet, you may be deficient in multiple nutrients. If you suspect, for any reason, that your diet may be short of some essential nutrients, a quality multivitamin and plant-based protein supplement can help you fill the gaps.

In addition, many Americans do not get enough of these nutrients that are important for healthy skin:

What to eat for healthy skin concerning nutrients?

what to eat for healthy skin vegetablesCarotenoids. Beta-carotene and related carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A, which is important for maintaining a healthy skin. They are also important antioxidants. You can get the full spectrum of carotenoids from a diet rich in multicolored fruits and vegetables, but 43% of Americans are not getting the recommended amount of these nutrients from their diet. For that reason, I often recommend that people look for supplement that provides the major carotenoids like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Vitamins C and E. Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, which keeps the skin firm and supple. Both vitamin C and E are important antioxidants that help fight free radical damage caused by pollution, smoking, food additives, and sun exposure. Free radicals are a major cause of skin aging. In today’s world, we are exposed to free radicals from many different sources. 39% of Americans don’t get enough vitamin C from their diet, and 88% don’t get enough vitamin E, so extra vitamins C and E are important to help prevent our skin from aging prematurely.

Omega-3 fatty acids. As mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids exert a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. They are also an important component of skin cell membranes, helping to keep the skin moist and supple.

Unfortunately, as I have reported recently, most of us are woefully deficient in omega-3s. For example, one study reported that 90% of Canadian women of child bearing age have suboptimal omega-3 intake. Another study showed that US women of child-bearing age are getting only around 20% of the recommended level of omega-3s from their diet. Finally, a recent study has shown that most Americans have very low tissue levels of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, our tissue levels of omega-3s are among the lowest in the world.

It is clear we should be getting more omega-3s in our diets. Eating more omega-3-rich fish would seem like an obvious recommendation. However, as mentioned above, our oceans are polluted. Fish are often contaminated with heavy metals or PCBs. For that reason, I often recommend a high-purity omega-3 supplement to make sure we get enough omega-3s in our diet.

Polyphenols. Polyphenols are good antioxidants. In addition, resveratrol and related polyphenols from muscadine grapes activate cellular anti-aging genes. Those genes, in turn, activate DNA repair and inhibit the cellular stress response. We are just beginning to learn about the role of these important phytonutrients in keeping our skin young and healthy.

The Bottom Line

If you want healthy, younger looking, skin, a good skin care regimen is only part of the solution. You also need a diet that gives your skin the nutrition it needs from the inside out.

1) Inflammation is your skin’s # 1 enemy, so good nutrition starts with an anti-inflammatory diet.

2) An anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes:

• Colorful fruits & vegetables
• Whole grains
• Beans and other legumes
• Nuts, olive oil & avocados
• Fatty fish
• Herbs and spices

3) An anti-inflammatory diet minimizes:

• Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods
• Foods high in saturated fats
• Foods containing trans- fats
• Fried foods
• Foods you are allergic or sensitive to

4) We may not be getting enough of certain nutrients that are particularly important for a healthy skin. They are:

• Carotenoids
• Vitamins C & E
• Omega-3 fatty acids
• Polyphenols

For more details, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Does Magnesium Optimize Vitamin D Levels?

Posted February 12, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

The Case For Holistic Supplementation

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

Does magnesium optimize vitamin D levels?

magnesium optimize vitamin dOne of the great mysteries about vitamin D is the lack of correlation between vitamin D intake and blood levels of its active metabolite, 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Many people who consume RDA levels of vitamin D from foods and/or supplements end up with low blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. The reason(s) for this discrepancy between intake of vitamin D and blood levels of its active metabolite are not currently understood.

Another great mystery is why it has been so difficult to demonstrate benefits of vitamin D supplementation. Association studies show a strong correlation between optimal 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. However, placebo-controlled clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation have often come up empty. Until recently, many of those studies did not measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. Could it be that optimal levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were not achieved?

The authors of the current study hypothesized that optimal magnesium status might be required for vitamin D conversion to its active form. You are probably wondering why magnesium would influence vitamin D metabolism. I had the same question.

The authors pointed out that:

  • Magnesium status affects the activities of enzymes involved in both the synthesis and degradation of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
  • Some clinical studies have suggested that magnesium intake interacts with vitamin D intake in affecting health outcomes.
  • If the author’s hypothesis is correct, it is a concern because magnesium deficiency is prevalent in this country. In their “Fact Sheet For Health Professionals,” the NIH states that “…a majority of Americans of all ages ingest less magnesium from food than their respective EARs [Estimated Average Requirement]; adult men aged 71 years and older and adolescent females are most likely to have low intakes.” Other sources have indicated that magnesium deficiency may approach 70-80% for adults over 70.

If the author’s hypothesis that magnesium is required for vitamin D activation is correct and most Americans are deficient in magnesium, this raises some troubling questions.

  • Most vitamin D supplements do not contain magnesium. If people aren’t getting supplemental magnesium from another source, they may not be optimally utilizing the vitamin D in the supplements.
  • Most clinical studies involving vitamin D do not also include magnesium. If most of the study participants are deficient in magnesium, it might explain why it has been so difficult to show benefits from vitamin D supplementation.

Thus the authors devised a study (Q Dai et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108: 1249-1258, 2018 ) to directly test their hypothesis.

 

How Was The Study Designed?

magnesium optimize vitamin d studyThe authors recruited 180 volunteers, aged 40-85, from an ongoing study on the prevention of colon cancer being conducted at Vanderbilt University. The duration of the study was 12 weeks. Blood was drawn at the beginning of the study to measure baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. Three additional blood draws to determine 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were performed at weeks 1, 6, and 12.

Because high blood calcium levels increase excretion of magnesium, the authors individualized magnesium intake based on “optimizing” the calcium to magnesium ratio in the diet rather than giving everyone the same amount of magnesium. The dietary calcium to magnesium ratio for most Americans is 2.6 to 1 or higher. Based on their previous work, they considered an “ideal” calcium to magnesium ratio to be 2.3 to 1. The mean daily dose of magnesium supplementation in this study was 205 mg, with a range from 77 to 390 mg to achieve the “ideal” calcium to magnesium ratio. The placebo was an identical gel capsule containing microcrystalline cellulose.

Two 24-hour dietary recalls were conducted at baseline to determine baseline dietary intake of calcium and magnesium. Four additional 24-hour dietary recalls were performed during the 12-week study to assure that calcium intake was unchanged and the calcium to magnesium ratio of 2.3 to 1 was achieved.

In short this was a small study, but it was very well designed to test the author’s hypothesis.

 

Does Magnesium Optimize Vitamin D Levels?

 

does magnesium optimize vitamin d levelsThis was a very complex study, so I am simplifying it for this discussion. For full details, I refer you to the journal article (Q Dai et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108: 1249-1258, 2018).

The most significant finding was that magnesium supplementation did affect blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. However, the effect of magnesium supplementation varied depending on the baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D level at the beginning of the study.

  • When the baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D was 20 ng/ml or less (which the NIH considers inadequate), magnesium supplementation had no effect on 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.
  • When the baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D was 20-30 ng/ml (which the NIH considers the lower end of the adequate range), magnesium supplementation increased 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.
  • When the baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D level approached 50 ng/ml (which the NIH says may be “associated with adverse effects”), magnesium supplementation lowered 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.

The simplest interpretation of these results is:

  • When vitamin D intake is inadequate, magnesium cannot magically create 25-hydroxyvitamin D from thin air.
  • When vitamin D intake is adequate, magnesium can enhance the conversion of vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
  • When vitamin D intake is too high, magnesium can help protect you by lowering 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.

The authors concluded: “Our findings suggest that optimal magnesium status may be important for optimizing 25-hydroxyvitamin D status. Further dosing studies are warranted…”

 

What Does This Study Mean For You?

magnesium optimize vitamin d for youThis was a groundbreaking study that has provided novel and interesting results.

  • It provides the first evidence that optimal magnesium status may be required for optimizing the conversion of vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
  • It suggests that optimal magnesium status can help normalize 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels by increasing low levels and decreasing high levels.

However, this was a small study and, like any groundbreaking study, has significant limitations. For a complete discussion of the limitations and strengths of this study I refer you to the editorial (S Lin and Q Liu, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108: 1159-1161, 2018) that accompanied the study.

In summary, this study needs to be replicated by larger clinical studies with a more diverse study population. In order to provide meaningful results, those studies would need to carefully control and monitor calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D intake. There is also a need for mechanistic studies to better understand how magnesium can both increase low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and decrease high 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.

However, assuming the conclusions of this study to be true, it has some interesting implications:

  • If you are taking a vitamin D supplement, you should probably make sure that you are also getting the DV (400 mg) of magnesium from diet plus supplementation.
  • If you are taking a calcium supplement, you should check that it also provides a significant amount of magnesium. If not, change supplements or make sure that you get the DV for magnesium elsewhere.
  • I am suggesting that you shoot for the DV (400 mg) of magnesium rather than reading every label and calculating the calcium to magnesium ratio. The “ideal” ratio of 2.3 to 1 is hypothetical at this point. A supplement providing the DV of both calcium and magnesium would have a calcium to magnesium ratio of 2.5, and I would not fault any manufacturer for providing you with the DV of both nutrients.
  • If you are taking high amounts of calcium, I would recommend a supplement that has a calcium to magnesium ratio of 2.5 or less.
  • If you are considering a magnesium supplement to optimize your magnesium status, you should be aware that magnesium can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. I would recommend a sustained release magnesium supplement.
  • Finally, whole grains and legumes are among your best dietary sources of magnesium. Forget those diets that tell you to eliminate whole food groups. They are likely to leave you magnesium-deficient.

Even if the conclusions of this study are not confirmed by subsequent studies, we need to remember that magnesium is an essential nutrient with many health benefits and that most Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diet. The recommendations I have made for optimizing magnesium status are common-sense recommendations that apply to all of us.

 

The Case For Holistic Supplementation

 

magnesium optimize vitamin d case for holistic supplementationThis study is one of many examples showing that a holistic approach to supplementation is superior to a “magic bullet” approach where you take individual nutrients to solve individual problems. For example, in the case of magnesium and vitamin D:

  • If you asked most nutrition experts and supplement manufacturers whether it is important to provide magnesium along with vitamin D, their answer would likely be “No”. Even if they are focused on bone health, they would be more likely to recommend calcium along with vitamin D than magnesium along with vitamin D.
  • If your doctor has tested your 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and recommended a vitamin D supplement, chances are they didn’t also recommend that you optimize your magnesium status.
  • Clinical studies investigating the benefits of vitamin D supplementation never ask whether magnesium intake is optimal.

That’s because most doctors and nutrition experts still think of nutrients as “magic bullets.” I cover holistic supplementation in detail in my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths.”  Other examples that make a case for holistic supplementation that I cover in my book include:

  • A study showing that omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins may work together to prevent cognitive decline. Unfortunately, most studies looking at the effect of B vitamins on cognitive decline have not considered omega-3 status and vice versa. No wonder those studies have produced inconsistent results.
  • Studies looking at the effect of calcium supplementation on loss of bone density in the elderly have often failed to include vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients that are needed for building healthy bone. They have also failed to include exercise, which is essential for building healthy bone. No wonder some of those studies have failed to find an effect of calcium supplementation on bone density.
  • A study reported that selenium and vitamin E by themselves might increase prostate cancer risk. Those were the headlines you might have seen. The same study showed Vitamin E and selenium together did not increase prostate cancer risk. Somehow that part of the study was never mentioned.
  • A study reported that high levels of individual B vitamins increased mortality slightly. Those were the headlines you might have seen. The same study showed that when the same B vitamins were combined in a B complex supplement, mortality decreased. Somehow that observation never made the headlines.
  • A 20-year study reported that a holistic approach to supplementation produced significantly better health outcomes.

In summary, vitamins and minerals interact with each other to produce health benefits in our bodies. Some of those interactions we know about. Others we are still learning about. When we take high doses of individual vitamins and minerals, we create potential problems.

  • We may not get the full benefit of the vitamin or mineral we are taking because some other important nutrient(s) may be missing from our diet.
  • Even worse, high doses of one vitamin or mineral may interfere with the absorption or enhance the excretion of another vitamin or mineral. That can create deficiencies.

The same principles apply to our diet. I mentioned earlier that whole grains and legumes are among the best dietary sources of magnesium. Eliminating those two foods from the diet increases our risk of becoming magnesium deficient. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Any time you eliminate foods or food groups from the diet, you run the risk of creating deficiencies of nutrients, phytonutrients, specific types of fiber, and the healthy gut bacteria that use that fiber as their preferred food source.

The Bottom Line

 

A recent study suggests that optimal magnesium status may be important for optimizing 25-hydroxyvitamin D status. This is one of many examples showing that a holistic approach to supplementation is superior to a “magic bullet” approach where you take individual nutrients to solve individual problems. For example, in the case of magnesium and vitamin D:

  • If you asked most nutrition experts and supplement manufacturers whether it is important to provide magnesium along with vitamin D, their answer would likely be “No.”  Even if they are focused on bone health, they would be more likely to recommend calcium along with vitamin D than magnesium along with vitamin D.
  • If your doctor has tested your 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and recommended a vitamin D supplement, chances are he or she did not also recommend that you optimize your magnesium status.
  • Clinical studies investigating the benefits of vitamin D supplementation never ask whether magnesium intake is optimal. That may be why so many of those studies have failed to find any benefit of vitamin D supplementation.

I cover holistic supplementation in detail in my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths” and provide several other examples where a holistic approach to supplementation is superior to taking individual supplements.

In summary, vitamins and minerals interact with each other to produce health benefits in our bodies. Some of those interactions we know about. Others we are still learning about. Whenever we take high doses of individual vitamins and minerals, we create potential problems.

  • We may not get the full benefit of the vitamin or mineral we are taking because some other important nutrient(s) may be missing from our diet.
  • Even worse, high doses of one vitamin or mineral may interfere with the absorption or enhance the excretion of another vitamin or mineral. That can create deficiencies.

The same principles apply to what we eat. For example, whole grains and legumes are among the best dietary sources of magnesium. Eliminating those two foods from the diet increases our risk of becoming magnesium deficient. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Any time you eliminate foods or food groups from the diet, you run the risk of creating deficiencies.

For more details about the current study and what it means to you read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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