Limited science suggests that what we eat (or don’t eat) may indeed affect how “gracefully” our skin ages. A study of 177 men and women published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people who consumed diets rich in olive oil, vegetables and legumes had the least skin wrinkling while those who ate lots of full-fat dairy and red meat had the most. “Eating foods rich in bioactive compounds (vitamins, phytochemicals) may minimize ultraviolet damage to the skin and improve its appearance,” says Mark L. Wahlqvist, M.D., one of the study’s authors and director of the Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Center at Monash University in Australia.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly how it all works, but it appears that antioxidants in foods may inhibit free-radical damage—some of it caused by the sun’s UV rays—that accelerates skin aging.
Lending support to this theory, a 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that drinking a high-flavonol (an antioxidant) cocoa daily for 12 weeks improved women’s skin texture and hydration—which “likely contributes to an improvement in skin appearance,” the authors wrote. Women randomly assigned to a group that was asked to drink a low-flavonol cocoa did not show any skin improvements. Members of the same German research group previously had revealed that consuming tomato paste rich in lycopene, another antioxidant (2 tablespoons daily for 10 weeks), reduced sunburn by 40 percent.
Bottom line: The prospect that antioxidants could help keep skin smooth and supple is exciting, but the science is very preliminary. Filling your plate with tasty vegetables and healthy fats can be a beautiful thing, but there is no magic-bullet food (or supplement) for warding off wrinkles.
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