The physician-patient interaction is one in which emphasis is placed on treatment, whether through prescription drugs or surgical interventions. A key element in medicine that doesn’t get enough “air time” is prevention. Focusing on prevention is crucial toward driving a healthier aging population. People who eat better and engage in physical activity when they are young will become independent, healthy older adults.

One of the immediate signs of aging can be seen in your skin. With accelerated aging, your skin is affected by too much sun exposure, smoking, excessive drinking, a poor diet, environmental toxins, and inflammation. Aging skin undergoes many problems that lead to wrinkling and sagging: thin epidermis, reduced oil production, water loss, loss of water and nutrients, and diminished elasticity.

While there are many physiological changes that occur in aging, the signs of aging skin can be delayed and reversed. Researchers have found that certain compounds in food play a role in helping aging skin retain a supple and tighter appearance. To understand how nutrients revitalize skin, we need to take a look at the dermo-epidermal junction (DEJ).

The DEJ connects the epidermis to the dermis. The underlying dermal layer is highly vascularized, and the epidermal layer is not. The dermal layer has a rich blood supply and uses the DEJ to transport important nutrients and oxygen to the nonvascular epidermal layer; the dermis also removes waste from the epidermis in order to ensure supple, healthy skin. With time, however, the DEJ becomes thinner. The flattening of the junction reduces the communication between the two skin layers. Consequently, the epidermis, unable to receive adequate amounts of essential nutrients from the dermis, loses its springiness. As one ages, skin becomes wrinkled, inelastic, and dry.

Fortunately, researchers have found that certain compounds help to maintain the integrity of the DEJ. Namely, a synthetic compound called hexapeptide-10 (Serilesine®) has been shown to target necessary components of the DEJ: laminin-5, alpha-6 integrin, and hemidesmosome. Scientists developed Serilesine® by sequencing the alpha chain of laminin, which is an important glycoprotein that maintains, protects, and repairs skin. One study in which hexapeptide was administered to healthy volunteers showed significant improvements in the elasticity, compactness, tonicity, and smoothness of skin.

Images of healthy skin are portrayals of firm and smooth skin, not of wrinkles. Taut, wrinkle-free skin is attributed to collagen and elastin, important proteins that help to maintain the strength and structure of skin. Collagen works to maintain the structure of skin, while elastin is responsible for the skin’s “snappiness.” Over time, as we age, the structure and recoil ability of your skin declines. These normal skin changes will occur much faster because of lifestyle choices such as poor diet, smoking, and excessive sun exposure.

Another study demonstrates that a compound called acetyl-dipeptide-13 diphenylglycin targets elastase, which is an enzyme that destroys elastin and promotes loose skin that’s commonly associated with older adults. The compound has also been shown to increase the formation of collagen. Periodically throughout my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan, I share research that uses prescriptive drugs or synthetic compounds.

You may be wondering why this is important since my book promotes a gene therapy diet that’s programmed to provide healthy food options. Yes, practicing good gene therapy through your diet is about eating healthy foods that activate genes that promote health, not disease. Yet, we cannot fully appreciate what these nutritive substances can do unless we understand their effect on how genes work, what their proteins do, and how they promote health or disease.

Exploring studies that use synthetic compounds like Serilesine® will help further our understanding of how components within tissues help to promote disease. And from these studies, we can focus on nutrients that may target these cellular components to delay things like unhealthy aging.

That brings me to my next point. Now that we’ve reviewed how a component of skin like the DEJ maintains skin integrity, let’s take a look at some healthy foods that are good for your skin. The nutrients in these foods target cellular components of your skin to maintain a taut, youthful appearance that defies your chronological age. Yes, it’s possible with food to keep people guessing about your age!

One of the major accelerants of advanced aging skin is free radical damage brought on by environmental toxins, smoking, diet, and inflammation. Free radicals ruin the important proteins that are necessary for maintaining youthful skin. Ask yourself how many times people underestimated your age by 10 years or more, and ask yourself how many times people overestimated it by 10 years or more. Which group do you want to belong to? I’m sure you want age-defying skin. If you do, take a look at these healthful antioxidant foods that have incredible rejuvenating abilities for amazing looking skin:

Goji berries, potent antioxidants, are loaded with vitamins C and E. Vitamin C is important for collagen synthesis. Vitamin E helps skin hold in moisture, which is good for preventing dryness and wrinkles. Goji berries have been shown in a study to boost antioxidant activity by 57%. In another study, goji berries reduced free radical formation by 82%. These berries contain bioactive components that help to maintain a healthful, youthful appearance of skin by blocking collagen-destroying enzymes. Goji berries also happen to contain more vitamin C than an orange!

Phyllanthus emblica or Indian gooseberry has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Think of it as an edible SPF because it has been shown to protect against the harmful effects of ultraviolent (UV) damage. As much as we enjoy lying beachside or poolside while soaking up the sun’s rays, we also know that without proper protection it can lead to premature aging—or worse, skin cancer. Excessive and unprotected exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays causes damage to skin, specifically collagen.

Because collagen is integral to the strength and structure of skin, the degree of collagen damage manifests as fine lines, age spots, skin discoloration, and wrinkles. One study looked at the effects of Indian gooseberry on human skin fibroblasts that were exposed to UV radiation; the results showed that the berries blocked the formation of matrix metalloproteinase, which is an enzyme that destroys collagen in UV damaged skin. Indian gooseberry has also been shown to boost collagen synthesis, prevent collagenase activity (collagen-destroying enzyme), and promote skin repair.

Pycnogenol® is a natural plant extract with the capacity to improve elasticity and minimize collagen loss to help maintain youthful, healthy, and supple skin. Pycnogenol® contains bioactive compounds such as procyanidins and bioflavonoids, which target the processes in the body that cause skin to age prematurely. Many of these processes affect other areas of the body to cause tissue damage such as oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA damage. What you should begin to see is that many of the mechanisms involved in poor health also promote advanced aging and accelerated cell death. When these processes begin to take their toll, your skin bears the first visible signs of premature aging. Studies exploring the effects of Pycnogenol® on health demonstrate that it inhibits mechanisms that promote premature aging to maintain good health both inside and out.

In one clinical trial, supplementing participants with 75 to 25 milligrams of Pycnogenol® daily was protective against UV light exposure; this demonstrates that Pycnogenol® is also an “internal” sunscreen. By supplementing your diet with Pycnogenol®, skin elasticity and smoothness improves, as shown in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. I suggest that my patients add Pycnogenol® to their diet to prevent premature aging, which is one of the many benefits the phytonutrients in this supplement have to offer. Because factors such as inflammation, oxidative stress, advance glycation end products (AGEs), DNA damage, and cell membrane damage affect other tissues in the body, the supplement can improve conditions such as CVD, arthritis, diabetes, and cognitive decline.

Photo Credit: Novikov Alex/
Benaiges A, Marcet P, Armengol R, Betes C, Gironés E. Study of the refirming effect of a plant complex. Int J Cosmet Sci. 20(4): 223-233, 1998.
Oikarinen A. Aging of the skin connective tissue: how to measure the biochemical and mechanical properties of aging dermis. Review. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 10(2): 47-52, 1994
Culav EM et al. Connective tissues: matrix composition and its relevance to physical therapy. Phys Ther. 79: 308-319, 1999.
Bernstein EF et al. Long-term sun exposure alters the collagen of the papillary dermis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 34: 209-218, 1996.
Varani J et al. Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age- dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation. Am J Pathol. 168(6): 1861-1868, 2006.
Tsukahara K, Takema Y, Moriwaki S, Tsuji N, Suzuki Y, Fujimura T, Imokawa G. Selective inhibition of skin fibroblast elastase elicits a concentration-dependent prevention of ultraviolet B-induced wrinkle formation. J Invest Dermatol. 117(3): 671-677, 2001. Erratum in: J Invest Dermatol . 118(4): 742, 2002.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 May 22;111(3):504-11.
Phytother Res. 2004 Dec;18(12):1008-12.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Oct 28;132(1):109-14.
Am J Pathol. 2007 Nov;171(5):1451-61.
Marini A, Grether-Beck S, Jaenicke T, et al. Pycnogenol® effects on skin elasticity and hydration coincide with increased gene expressions of collagen type I and hyaluronic acid synthase in women. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(2):86-92.
Tixier JM, Godeau G, Robert AM, Hornebeck W. Evidence by in vivo and in vitro studies that binding of Pycnogenol® to elastin affects its rate of degradation by elastases. Biochem Pharmacol. 1984 Dec 15;33(24):3933-9.
Cho HS, Lee MH, Lee JW, et al. Anti-wrinkling effects of the mixture of vitamin C, vitamin E, Pycnogenol® and evening primrose oil, and molecular mechanisms on hairless mouse skin caused by chronic ultraviolet B irradiation. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2007 Oct;23(5):155-62.
Segger D, Schonlau F. Supplementation with Evelle improves skin smoothness and elasticity in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 62 women. J Dermatolog Treat. 2004 Jul;15(4):222-6.