Before trying yet another diet fad or otherwise reducing dietary fat consumption, consider that fat and other essential nutrients may be the fountain of youth. During a scientific session titled “Food Science, Nutrition, and Skin: Lessons for the Food Producer and Consumer on Aging, Beauty, and Healthy Skin,” three panelists presented strong evidence that fat is the great unifier in the battle against skin problems, signs of aging, and hair loss.
Even though it is abhorred by women everywhere, fat is actually an important part of the human diet. Besides providing a source for energy in the body, fat nourishes the hair and skin in all living mammals. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E are also beneficial tools in the fight against aging and other skin problems. As the largest organ of the body, skin protects internal organs, regulates body temperature, and facilitates sensory capabilities.
Research studies have shown that lab animals deprived of essential fatty acid intake experienced dry, scaly skin; skin wrinkling; and hair loss. Other studies have shown that too high of an intake of essential fats can lead to other skin disorders such as acne and health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. What most individuals are missing is a proper balanced intake of dietary fats, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients. In fact, without dietary fat, the body cannot absorb certain nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Apparently, the Westernized diet—which is high in the consumption of red meat and saturated fats—correlates to increased incidences of skin problems such as acne and eczema as well as inflammatory health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Non-westernized diets are linked to little or no occurrences of skin problems and reduced incidences of inflammatory diseases and disorders. Non-westernized diets are high in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish).
While stressors such as fatigue and smoking also have adverse effects on skin and hair, the panelists concluded that the best route to clear skin, a full head of hair, and a clean bill of health is a diet containing a low glycemic load. Fruits, vegetables, fiber, fish, and unsaturated fats are the elements of a low-glycemic load diet. Perhaps food is the only prescription humans need.
Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is a nonprofit scientific society with more than 20,000 individual members working in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT serves as a conduit for multidisciplinary science thought leadership, championing the use of sound science through knowledge sharing, education, and advocacy. For more information on IFT, visit www.ift.org.