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

Do Omega-3s Lower Blood Pressure in Young, Healthy Adults?

Posted August 14, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

What Is The Omega-3 Index And Why Is It Important?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

Do omega-3s lower blood pressure in healthy adults?

omega-3s lower blood pressure young adultsThe literature on the potential health benefits of omega-3s is very confusing. That’s because a lot of bad studies have been published. Many of them never determined the omega-3 status of their subjects prior to omega-3 supplementation. Others relied on dietary recalls of fish consumption, which can be inaccurate.

Fortunately, a much more accurate measure of omega-3 status has been developed and validated in recent years. It’s called the Omega-3 Index. Simply put, the Omega-3 Index is the percentage of EPA and DHA compared to 26 other fatty acids found in cellular membranes. Using modern technology, it can be determined from a single finger prick blood sample. It is a very accurate reflection of omega-3 intake relative to other fats in the diet over the past few months. More importantly, it is a measure of the omega-3 content of your cell membranes, which is a direct measure of your omega-3 nutritional status.

A recent extension of the Framingham Heart Study reported that participants with an Omega-3 Index >6.8% had a 39% lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those with an Omega-3 Index <4.2% (WS Harris et al, Journal of Clinical Lipidology, 12: 718-724, 2018 ). Although more work needs to be done, an Omega-3 Index of 4% or less is generally considered indicative of high cardiovascular risk, while 8% or better is considered indicative of low cardiovascular risk. For reference, the average American has an Omega-3 Index in the 4-5% range. In Japan, where fish consumption is much higher and cardiovascular risk much lower, the Omega-3 Index is in the 9-11% range.

Previous studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure to a modest extent. Thus, it is not surprising that more recent studies have shown an inverse correlation between Omega-3 Index and blood pressure. However, those studies have been done with older populations, many of whom had already developed high blood pressure.

From a public health point of view, it is much more interesting to investigate whether it might be possible to prevent high blood pressure in older adults by optimizing omega-3 intake in a young, healthy population, most of whom had not yet developed high blood pressure. Unfortunately, there were no studies looking at that population. The current study was designed to fill that gap.

 

How Was The Study Done?

omega-3s lower blood pressure young healthy adultsThe current study (M.G. Filipovic et al, Journal of Hypertension, 36: 1548-1554, 2018 ) was based on data collected from 2036 healthy adults, aged 25-41, from Liechtenstein. They were participants in the GAPP (Genetic and Phenotypic Determinants of Blood Pressure) study. Participants were excluded from the study if they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and were taking medication to lower their blood pressure. They were also excluded if they had heart disease, chronic kidney disease, other severe illnesses, obesity, sleep apnea, or daily use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

Blood samples were collected at the time of their enrollment in the study and frozen for subsequent determination of Omega-3 Index. Blood pressure was also measured at their time of enrollment in two different ways. The first was a standard blood pressure measurement in a doctor’s office.

For the second measurement they were given a wearable blood pressure monitor that recorded their blood pressure over 24 hours every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes while they were sleeping. This is considered more accurate than a resting blood pressure measurement in a doctor’s office because it records the variation in blood pressure, while you are sleeping, while you are exercising, and while you go about your everyday activities.

 

Do Omega-3s Lower Blood Pressure In Young, Healthy Adults?

omega-3s lower blood pressure young adults equipmentNone of the participants in the study had significantly elevated blood pressure. The mean systolic and diastolic office blood pressures were 120±13 and 78±9 respectively. The average Omega-3 Index in this population was 4.6%, which is similar to the average Omega-3 Index in the United States.

When they compared the group with the highest Omega-3 Index (average = 5.8%) with the group with the lowest Omega-3 Index (average = 4.6%):

  • The office measurement of systolic and diastolic blood pressure was decreased by 3.3% and 2.6% respectively
  • While those numbers appear small, the differences were highly significant.
  • The 24-hour blood pressure measurements showed a similar decrease.
  • Blood pressure measurements decreased linearly with increasing Omega-3 Index. [In studies of this kind, a linear dose-response is considered an internal validation of the differences observed between the group with the highest Omega-3 Index and the group with the lowest Omega-3 Index.]

The authors concluded: “A higher Omega-3 Index is associated with statistically significant, clinically relevant, lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure in normotensive, young and healthy individuals. Diets rich omega-3 fatty acids may be a strategy for primary prevention of hypertension.”

 

What Does This Mean For You?

omega-3s lower blood pressure young adults questionPerhaps I should first comment on the significance of the relatively small decrease in blood pressure observed in this study.

  • These were young adults, all of whom had normal or near normal blood pressure.
  • The difference in Omega-3 Index was rather small (5.8% to 4.6%). None of the participants in the study were at the 8% or above that is considered optimal.
  • Liechtenstein is a small country located between Switzerland and Spain. Fish consumption is low and omega-3 supplement consumption is rare.

Under these conditions, even a small, but statistically significant, decrease in blood pressure is remarkable.

We should think of this study as the start of the investigation of the relationship between omega-3 status and blood pressure. Its weakness is that it only shows an association between high Omega-3 Index and low blood pressure. It does not prove cause and effect.

Its strength is that it is consistent with many other studies showing omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure. Furthermore, it suggests that the effect of omega-3s on blood pressure may also be seen in young, healthy adults who have not yet developed high blood pressure.

Finally, the authors suggested that a diet rich in omega-3s might reduce the incidence of high blood pressure by slowing the age-related increase in blood pressure that most Americans experience. This idea is logical, but speculative at present.

However, the GAPP study is designed to provide the answer to that question. It is a long-term study with follow-up examinations scheduled every 3-5 years. It will be interesting to see whether the author’s prediction holds true, and a higher Omega-3 Index is associated with a slower increase in blood pressure as the participants age.

 

Why Is The Omega-3 Index Important?

 

The authors of this study said: “The Omega-3 Index is very robust to short-term intake of omega-3 fatty acids and reliably reflects an individual’s long-term omega-3 status and tissue omega-3 content. Therefore, the Omega-3 Index has the potential to become a cardiovascular risk factor as much as the HbA1c is for people with diabetes…” That is a bit of an overstatement. HbA1c is a measure of disease progression for diabetes because it is a direct measure of blood sugar control.

In contrast, Omega-3 Index is merely a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, if it is further validated by future studies, it is likely to be as important for predicting cardiovascular risk as are cholesterol levels and markers of inflammation.

However, to me the most important role of Omega-3 Index is in the design of future clinical studies. If anyone really wants to determine whether omega-3 supplementation reduces cardiovascular risk, high blood pressure, diabetes or any other health outcome they should:

  • Start with a population group with an Omega-3 Index in the deficient (4-5%) range.
  • Supplement with omega-3 fatty acids in a double blind, placebo-controlled manner.
  • Show that supplementation brought participants up to an optimal Omega-3 Index of 8% or greater.
  • Look at health outcomes such as heart attacks, cardiovascular deaths, hypertension, stroke, or depression.
  • Continue the study long enough for the beneficial effects of omega-3 supplementation to be measurable. For cardiovascular outcomes the American Heart Association has stated that at least two years are required to obtain meaningful results.

These are the kind of experiments that will be required to give definitive, reproducible results and resolve the confusion about the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

 

The Bottom Line

 

An accurate measure of omega-3 status has been developed and validated in recent years. It’s called the Omega-3 Index. Simply put, the Omega-3 Index is the percentage of EPA and DHA compared to 26 other fatty acids found in cellular membranes.

Although more work needs to be done, an Omega-3 Index of 4% or less is generally considered indicative of high cardiovascular risk while 8% or better is considered indicative of low cardiovascular risk.

Previous studies have shown an inverse correlation between Omega-3 Index and blood pressure. However, these studies have been done with older populations, many of whom had already developed high blood pressure.

From a public health point of view, it is much more interesting to investigate whether it might be possible to prevent high blood pressure in older adults by optimizing omega-3 intake in a young, healthy population, most of whom had not yet developed high blood pressure. Until now, there have been no studies looking at that population.

The study described in this article was designed to fill that gap. The participants in this study were ages 25-41, were healthy, and none of them had elevated blood pressure.

When the group with the highest Omega-3 Index (average = 5.8%) was compared with the group with the lowest Omega-3 Index (average = 4.6%):

  • Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were decreased
  • Blood pressure measurements decreased linearly with increasing Omega-3 Index.

The authors concluded: “A higher Omega-3 Index is associated with statistically significant, clinically relevant, lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure in normotensive, young and healthy individuals. Diets rich omega-3 fatty acids may be a strategy for primary prevention of hypertension.”

Let me translate that last sentence into plain English for you. The authors were saying that optimizing omega-3 intake in young adults may slow the age-related increase in blood pressure and reduce the risk of them developing high blood pressure as they age. This may begin to answer the question “Do omega-3s lower blood pressure in young, healthy adults?”

Or even more simply put: Aging is inevitable. Becoming unhealthy is not.

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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