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Promoting Beauty With Food and Drink

By: Jonathan Selzer, PhD
Posted: June 29, 2010, from the July 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Much of the skin consists of the protein called collagen; it provides support and structure. Elastin is another protein in skin that makes the skin elastic. The third component of skin, making it strong, elastic and youthful, are glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). In healthy, young skin, all three components are produced in plentiful quantities. Things change, however, when a person ages.

The skin ages in both intrinsic mechanisms, such as destructive enzymes that break down collagen and elastin and weaken the skin’s matrix, and extrinsic mechanisms, such as exposure to the sun’s UV radiation, chemicals and oxidation. Collagen, elastin and GAGs are subject to the ravages of both intrinsic and extrinsic aging. The result is an increase in wrinkles, pigmentation and changes in the skin’s thickness.


The body is under constant attack from oxidizing agents. These include the notorious free radicals, but also many other molecules that either come from the environment or a person’s metabolism. The result of oxidation is damage to tissues, cellular DNA, proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. Of course, the body has its own antioxidant system, including superoxide dismutase, glutathione and others. Its intrinsic antioxidant system, however, weakens with age and should be augmented through the diet.

There are many different kinds of dietary antioxidants available and most of them have been well-studied in laboratories. Because there are many kinds of oxidizing agents in the body, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation. It is best to take a variety of antioxidants that have different specialties. Most of these belong to the group of natural chemicals called polyphenols (see Popular Polyphenols).

Because oxidation is one of the most severe causes of premature aging, a good mix of antioxidants makes for a great defense, contributing to an anti-aging program and helping maintain the beauty of youth.