Is your diet ageing you? A dermatologist explains which foods to avoid

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  • It's no secret that what you eat can affect how you age.
  • A dermatologist explains that there are certain foods to avoid, as they can cause inflammation and accelerate ageing.
  • Fortunately, incorporating anti-ageing foods in your diet can combat this, she says.

Eating the right foods can set up your body for success and is crucial to living your healthiest life, but it can also help you age better.

Some studies have shown that, along with lifestyle factors, the right diet can be an anti-ageing hero.

“Food is your best medicine or your worst poison, and that’s absolutely true when it comes to your skin,” Dermatologist Dr Lily Talakoub said in an interview with Fox News.

Here are some ways you can make better food choices, according to Talakoub.

READ MORE | Sugar detox? Cutting carbs? A doctor explains why you should keep fruit on the menu

Dairy is not your friend

Some dairy products are inflammatory and promote the ageing of skin.

Says Talakoub: “Dairy … causes the gut to induce inflammatory cells that circulate into the blood. When it circulates into the blood, it can deposit into your joints, skin, and other organs. 

“Particularly with your skin, it can cause inflammation of the skin, such as rosacea, psoriasis, bumps in your skin, redness, and it can cause significant problems later on.”

Talakoub says that many people assume that dairy inflammatory symptoms are linked to an allergy but that this was not always the case.

Drop gluten-rich foods, and try these instead

Research has identified gluten as one of the main culprits for premature skin ageing. According to Talakoub, gluten is also an inflammatory component of the gut. 

You don’t have to have celiac disease (a digestive and autoimmune disorder) or a gluten allergy - simply being sensitive to gluten can cause an inflammatory reaction. Foods that contain gluten include bread, pasta, some breakfast cereals and canned soups.

READ MORE | Could vegetables be the fountain of youth?

“Gluten causes those inflammatory cells to circulate … and those cells cause free radical damage to the skin. These free radicals bind to skin cells and other cells in your organs and cause damage to those cells,” explains Talakoub.

This is why experts stress the need to eat foods rich in antioxidants, such as broccoli, spinach, beans, and dark chocolate. Antioxidants cause those free radicals to dissipate in our system, says Talakoub.

Cut out sugary drinks 

Studies have consistently shown that sugary drinks and processed foods are bad for your health. But regular consumption of them can cause inflammation, and the substances contained in them can significantly damage your cells.

The discovery of telomeres, which protects your real DNA every time a cell divides, has led to what scientists call the “telomere theory of ageing”, says Talakoub. It explains that high sugar levels, associated with shorter telomeres, can cause DNA  damage and speed up ageing. 

Cured meats, salt, MSG

They’re all bad, says Talakoub. “If you’re someone who wakes up in the morning and has swollen eyes, really think about what you ate the night before.”

That repetitive swelling and decompressing of the face will ultimately stretch the skin cells and cause baggy, saggy skin; she explains: “That salt retains water in our body and can cause our skin to stretch and never return to normal.”

What to know about free radicals

Free radicals are unstable atoms produced in the body naturally, but they are also found in substances in the environment, such as exhaust fumes, tobacco smoke, and pollutants in the water we drink. Food is also a source of free radicals.

Unfortunately, they can damage cells, causing illness and ageing. Says Talakoub:

“[Free radicals] are parts of the cells that cause inflammation, and the inflammation causes DNA damage - it’ll destroy the outer layer of the cells. And over time, this destruction can cause collagen and elastin to be destroyed, so your skin ages more.

READ MORE | Why antioxidants are the superheroes of nutrition

No matter how many products you put on the skin, such as products containing vitamin C and vitamin E that help fight free radicals, it’s not going to fight the free radicals that are induced by gut damage and certain foods, she says.

The solution? “Think of it as a two-pronged approach: you have to eat a clean, healthy diet as well as using products on your skin to avoid free radical damage from external sources, like UV radiation, pollution and smoking,” says Talakoub.

Importantly, a high intake of water may neutralise free radicals and reduce damage to cells, she adds.

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