Skin is beautiful at all ages of life, growing and adapting to support our needs at the time. As we go through life, there are a variety of changes that can happen to your skin, mainly the loss of elasticity, an uneven texture, roughness and inflammation. This process can happen naturally, as turnover of skin cells and collagen production slows down and there may also be reduced blood flow and hydration status . This can also happen through external causes such as pollution, UV-radiation, or the products we put on our skin which may be pro-inflammatory or disrupting of the skin’s microbiome. More importantly, food, drinks and oxidizing agents such as cigarette smoke can increase the aging process.
Although some of these aspects can be out of your hands, you can start to consider certain antioxidant rich and low-inflammatory foods and beverages that may help decrease excessive damage to the skin. This can include an anti-inflammatory diet which is high in brightly coloured vegetables and fruit, nuts, cold-water fish and low in foods which often cause sensitivities, such as gluten-containing products and dairy. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit are higher in antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, which are important for protecting the skin from damage as well as skin cell renewal. Vitamin C plays an integral role in collagen production, which decreases as we age causing a loss of elasticity in the skin. Food sensitivities are very specific per person, but they can cause an underlying level of inflammation which can contribute to redness and chronic skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Fish oil is wonderful because not only does it contain anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids, it also, depending on the type of fish oil, can have vitamin A and D which are potent antioxidants. Here are three ways fish oil supplementation may be your secret to aging gracefully:1. Helps reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles
As we age, skin begins to lose elasticity as collagen production decreases and water retention decreases. Additionally, skin cell turnover slows, causing cells to respond slower to damage, which can cause disruption to the skin barrier as well as changes to skin texture. All of these changes can result in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The way that fish oil supplementation intervenes is through its ability to neutralize damage caused by both internal and external factors .
Advanced glycation end-products (or AGEs), are products which are formed through the reduction of sugars, proteins or fats. They come most often through cooking processes such as grilling, frying and browning . These AGEs can accumulate in various tissues, including the skin, and cause oxidative damage which can lead to accelerated aging. There is some research that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in individuals who are more likely to produce AGEs is beneficial for reducing the effect of AGEs .2. Decreases redness and hyperpigmentation caused by inlfammation
Extrinsic damage to the skin comes mainly from pollution, smoke and UV-radiation from the sun. Damage from the sun, specifically can cause redness and inflammation from burning, as well as hyperpigmentation. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) polyunsaturated fatty acids have been heavily implicated in reducing inflammation of the skin . More specifically, omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammatory cytokines such as prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4 .
One observational study looked at changes to skin after two and a half years of supplementing with fish oil and consuming omega-3s in diet versus having low amounts of omega-3s. It was seen that individuals who had a greater intake of omega-3s had significantly lower photo-aging (damage from UV-radiation) . Interestingly, it seemed the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 found in vegetable sources, seemed to play a greater role in photo-aging in men, and EPA was more significantly correlated for women .3. Promotes healing of the skin after injury or damage
After an injury, wounds heal through a cycle of inflammation, skin cell growth and maturation . Omega-3 fatty acids can help that process through modulation of the inflammatory response leading to a faster healing rate and theoretically less scarring and hyperpigmentation.
More research needs to be done in this area on humans and with regards to fish oil supplementation because most research looked at the topical application of fish oil . However, we could extrapolate that internal fish oil may have an even more marked effect on the healing process.
Fish oils have a general anti-inflammatory function in the whole body which can contribute to anti-aging through cardiovascular support, weight management and joint health as well as skin healing. As well as supporting our bodies through good food, movement, stress-management and appropriate sun-protection, supplementation with fish oil seems to have a benefit in slowing the effects of skin damage. A general maintenance dose of mixed EPA and DHA between 1000-2000 mg can be beneficial, although individual needs can differ based on health concerns.*Please speak with your healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation of any sort.