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You are here: Skin & Nutrition >

Diet and wrinkles connection: What does research say?

An ideal clinical study is set up something like this. First, find a large uniform pool of candidates and randomly assign them to two groups. Second, change a single variable in a controlled way, e.g. administer a nutrient or a drug to the one group and give a placebo to the other group. Importantly, neither the administering doctors nor the subjects should know who is giving/getting what. After the treatment, analyze the results and make a conclusion whether the difference in the outcome between the groups is likely to be due to random statistical variations or the effect of the treatment. Such a study, especially if repeated by several independent groups of researchers unaffiliated with commercial interests, gives you a decent chance of arriving at the truth about the value of the treatment in question.

Well, I have to disappoint you but conducting such a study to find the best diet to prevent or reduce wrinkles is next to impossible in real life. First, a dietary intervention involves too many variables -- it is not practicable to vary every single aspect of a diet separately while keeping everything else constant. Second, long-running, interventional studies are very expensive. It is next to impossible to patent a diet, so such a study would require extremely generous public funding, which is hard to obtain for only a "beauty-threatening" problem like wrinkles. And there are other obstacles too. In other words, don't hold your breath for a definitive study showing what diet is the best 'wrinkle cure'.

Yet, not all is hopeless - we can shine some dim light into this void. First, there is some evidence, both direct and indirect, on how deficiencies, abundance as well as excesses of many individual nutrients impact the skin (see other articles in this section). Second, there are some lower-grade studies of diet-wrinkle connection providing potentially useful suggestive evidence.

The most comprehensive such study to date was published by researchers from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia in 2001 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The researchers analyzed the diets of 453 people (aged 70 years and over from Australia, Greece and Sweden) to determine the correlation, if any, between the consumption of certain types of foods and skin wrinkling.

The overall conclusion was that a low-glycemic diet high in varied fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and fish was associated with less skin wrinkling. Specifically, the following food were noted:

Foods associated with less wrinkling

In the Monash study, less skin wrinkling in the elderly was associated with higher intakes of:

  • Total fat
  • Mono-unsaturated fat
  • Olive oil and olives
  • Fish (especially fatty fish, such as sardines)
  • Reduced fat milk and milk products, such as yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and legumes (especially lima and broad beans)
  • Vegetables (especially leafy greens, spinach, eggplant, asparagus, celery, onions, leeks and garlic)
  • Wholegrain cereals
  • Fruit and fruit products (especially prunes, cherries, apples and jams)
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Zinc (foods which contain zinc include seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts).

Foods associated with more wrinkling

In the Monash study, more skin wrinkling in the elderly was associated with higher intakes of:

  • Saturated fat
  • Meat (especially fatty processed meats)
  • Full fat dairy products (especially unfermented products and ice cream)
  • Soft drinks and cordials
  • Cakes, pastries and desserts
  • Potatoes
  • Butter
  • Margarine

It is important to keep in mind that the Monash study is correlational, i.e. it establishes an association between events, not a causative relationship. For example, people who eat a lot of nuts seem to have fewer wrinkles. Perhaps nuts indeed prevent wrinkles. Or perhaps people who eat lots of nuts tend to also be "health nuts" and it is their obsessively healthy lifestyle that prevents wrinkles whereas nuts themselves have nothing to do with it. Or perhaps the gene that causes cravings for nuts also prevents skin wrinkling. The point is that results of correlational studies should not be taken as a proven fact but analyzed in the context of other available data. The good news is that the Monash study results are largely consistent with other available data on the connection between diet and skin health -- as you can see by reading other articles in this section as well as Skin and Nutrition Infopack.


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