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Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep

Some foods appear protective against the development of skin wrinkles, while others may make them worse.

November 19, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to: Urijamjari, andrewr, and WhiteCreek.


The skin is the largest organ in the body—about 20 square feet—and the most vulnerable organ in the body, exposed to both the oxidizing effects of UV radiation from the sun, and the oxidizing effects of oxygen in the air.   And years of oxidant stress can take a toll. Over the years, skin becomes thinner, more easily damaged, loses volume, elasticity, and can sag and wrinkle. What can we do about it? “Skin wrinkling: can food made a difference?” They measured healthfulness of skin using a microtopographic method, making a mold of the back of the hand with a silicone rubber, peeling it off and  looking at it under the microscope. This is what young, tight healthy skin looks like, but then as we age, our skin can get all coarse and flaccid. How can we stop it? Three things contribute to the aging of skin.  Oxidative stress, induced by sun-damage, inflammation, and ischemia, lack of adequate blood flow.” Oxidative stress means we need antioxidants.   Under these circumstances, many skin antioxidants undergo depletion and must be replaced continuously in order to delay the otherwise inevitable deterioration which would lead to skin aging. So plant foods would presumably help. And then inflammation and lack of blood flow, and so one might predict that saturated fat—inflammation—and cholesterol—ischemia, might be associated with adverse effects on our skin. Let’s see if our predictions hold up. “In particular, a high intake of vegetables, beans/peas/lentils/soy and olive oil appeared to be protective against skin wrinkling, whereas a high intake of meat, dairy and butter appeared to have an adverse effect. Prunes, apples and tea appeared especially protective. A recent study, for example, found that   green tea phytonutrients were able to protect skin against harmful UC radiation and help improve skin quality of women.   After a few months on green tea was a   16% reduction in skin roughness and a 25% reduction in scaling—  Here’s micrographs showing the reduction in scaling, as well as improved skin elasticity and hydration.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart, RN.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Those same three factors, ischemia, oxidation, and inflammation, also contribute to our leading killer. See Arterial Acne, Blocking the First Step of Heart Disease, and The Leaky Gut Theory of Why Animal Products Cause Inflammation. More on the power of prunes in Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol and To Snack or Not to Snack?. For an extraordinary report on green tea and skin health, check out: Treating Gorlin Syndrome With Green Tea.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts:  Stool Size and Breast Cancer RiskThe Anti-Wrinkle DietBest Dried Fruit For Cholesterol Treating Sensitive Skin From the Inside Out, and Diet and Cellulite 

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Sojuboygonevegan

    So a vegan diet with lots of high anti oxidant/inflammatory food, stay out of the sun and exercise. Sounds like the same recommendation for many of health benefits from a whole plant based diet. Right on!

  • Ji Kang

    Thank you so much dr greger for these amazing video tips! Our family has seen tremendous change in our health, for the better, from simple changes we made in our own diet. Whole plant based diet is the way to go! Thanks again..

  • Mary Asai

    We look forward to your videos daily!

  • Randy Kreill

    Another great video. No surprise that a vascular system compromised by high cholesterol will not get enough oxygen and nutrients to the skin…or that anti-oxidants help the skin. Exericise must also help oxygenate the skin of course.
    I’d like to see some studies done on vision. I’m now 50 and since going onto an all plant based diet nearly two years ago, combined with lots of minimalist and barefoot running, my vision has improved at an age where it should be getting worse. My bifocals are around here somewhere collecting dust. :~)

    • KristensRaw

      Barefoot running. Nice. I’m a Vibrams gal myself.

    • Linda

      Interesting comment…can you explain what you mean by “minimalist” here: “minimalist and barefoot running”…thanks!

  • John

    Vegan diet keeps us healthy and young looking. what a shocker. lol

  • daisy

    so peas and corn are good anti-wrinkle foods i am guessing?

  • Herehere

    Maybe any kind of veggie rich vegan diet would help in this context, and the tea is just a sidetrack (red herring).

  • Dr Who

    You’re so gay dude, speak like a man, then I’ll take you serious.

  • oxforduniversity

    I thank Dr. Greger for his incredible video’s, they are well said and explained, thankyou

  • citrus1

    Hi …any thoughts on how to help with menopausal woman who are starting to lose elasticity and tone on arms/inner elbows and forarms? for alot of woman this is a problem. Ones face can look toned and vibrant into the 50′s& 60s,70s but something about the arms start age and become loose and gelatinous before the rest of the body…any thoughts on this???

  • patti

    I have replaced butter with olive oil and its great. Would it be helpful to replace sugar with honey or just do without sweeteners altogether?

  • s noor

    Which green tea to buy? There are so many in the stores.

    • Thea

      s noor: Get the one you will drink! I suggest experimenting. I find that I don’t like plain green tea, but the flavored ones are pretty good. One of my current favorites is Moroccan Mint Green Tea by Stash. You also might look at something like Lemon Ginger green tea by Yogi.

      Good luck. I hope you find something that you like.

  • Nikky

    Any suggestions for melasma or facial skin pigmentation.