Why Do We Get Wrinkles?

Nourishing your skin from the inside out often means focusing on collagen production (vs. consuming collagen supplements) since it’s the major component of connective tissue in tendons, skin and ligaments1,2.  Your dermis layer’s collagen serves to provide skin with structure, allowing skin to rebuild and repair, and to withstand stretching1, providing skin elasticity and tone2. Although it’s the most abundant protein in the body, as we age our natural production of collagen wanes3. Collagen fibers break down or no longer regenerate, which lead to dreaded wrinkles2. 

Collagen

Collagen is made up of several amino acids, predominantly the non-essential amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline1,2, as well as alanine and arginine. Varying amino acid combinations make different types of collagen, so the collagen in skin (types I & III) is not the same as that in your joints (type II) or gut. In theory, boosting collagen production means furnishing your body with an adequate supply of amino acids from any protein source. However, the body prioritizes protein production to where it’s needed, say wound healing or antibodies for immunity, so it’s impossible to determine in advance where possible collagen peptides will be used in the body2. 

Still, consuming dietary sources of collagen ensures getting adequate amounts of hydroxyproline – the one amino acid not found in other proteins. Since collagen is concentrated in connective tissues, such as muscle, animal flesh (meat, fish, poultry, eggs) is a good source of collagen. Spirulina algae also contains collagen. Bone broth (which is simmered much longer than stock) also provides the amino acids necessary to build collagen2. 

Overall, dermatologists recommend a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants to preserve skin health. Several play a key role in the production and maintenance of collagen to keep skin smooth and firm, while others protect against sun-induced skin aging and free radical damage in skin cells. Specifically, the skin-saving nutrients and phytochemicals to include regularly in your diet should be:  

Vitamin C

This antioxidant is a necessary cofactor in collagen synthesis and protects existing collagen from degradation2,4 and subsequent skin damage. Good food sources include citrus fruit, kiwifruit, peppers, strawberries, papaya, tomato juice, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and broccoli4.

Vitamin E

As with vitamin C, this antioxidant helps fights free radicals produced from sun exposure4. Sunflower seeds, almonds, avocado, wheat germ, sunflower oil and grapeseed oil are good sources.

Linoleic Acid

An essential fatty acid used in making ceramides to build a strong skin barrier4. Research also suggests that higher intakes may reduce skin aging4. It’s found in nuts and seeds, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and canola oil.

Omega-3 Fats

This type of fat from fatty fish (such as salmon, trout and sardines) and certain plant oils (flaxseed, soybean, and canola) preserves collagen and reduces inflammation caused by ultraviolet rays4. 

Selenium

Found in Brazil nuts, mushrooms, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, turkey and seafood, this antioxidant mineral protects skin cells from free radical damage and guards against skin cancer4. 

Sulfur

A mineral commonly found in eggs, broccoli, onions, and garlic2 that’s needed for the structural formation of collagen.

Zinc

Foods such as red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, certain types of seafood, whole grains, and dairy products provide this necessary mineral co-factor for collagen production2. 

Flavenoids

These compounds in foods such as green tea, berries, beans and cocoa powder may reduce inflammation, improving skin elasticity and reducing wrinkles4. 

Water

The liquid of life helps maintain skin moisture, delivers nutrients to your skin, and flushes out toxins. 

Besides thinking about producing new collagen, it’s equally important to consider protecting existing collagen from damage and subsequent skin sagging. Lifestyle factors that negatively affect collagen integrity include smoking and sun and pollution exposure2.

Quitting smoking, wearing sunscreen and avoiding microscopic contaminants help to save your skin. A big dietary factor in skin aging is high sugar intake2 because the binding of sugar molecules to collagen fibers forms advanced glycation endproducts5, causing permanent damageTo prevent wrinkles, include only natural sugars in whole foods like fruit and milk, and avoid added sugars.

Sources

  1. WH Freeman and Company. Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. Molecular Cell Biology, 4th Edition. ©2000 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/ Accessed 11/15/2019 
  2. J Santa Cruz. Dietary Collagen — Should Consumers Believe the Hype? Today’s Dietitian, March 2019. Issue Vol. 21, No. 3, P. 26 
  3. Varani J, Dame MK, Rittie L, et al. Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age-dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation. American Journal of Pathology. 2006;168(6):1861–1868. doi:10.2353/ajpath.2006.051302 
  4. L Beck. “Can taking supplements or certain nutrients actually improve your skin?” The Globe And Mail. August 8, 2015. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/article-can-taking-supplements-or-certain-nutrients-actually-improve-your-skin/?cmpid=rss Accessed 11/15/2019. 
  5. Gkogkolou P, Böhm M. Advanced glycation end products: Key players in skin aging?. Dermatoendocrinology. 2012;4(3):259–270. doi:10.4161/derm.22028 

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