Fish Oil and the Aging Skin — the Real Truth
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat”, an axiom which suggests that well-nourished skin is beautiful skin. Most people know this, but have trouble distilling all of the scientific research out there regarding dietary intake and skin health into any true take-home suggestions they should incorporate into their diet. After all, it can be a bit confusing. Some studies suggest that certain nutrients are the cure-all for certain skin disorders, acne, or the signs of aging, while other studies publish results that seem to refute the same hypothesis. And what’s more, some people can eat a particular diet and have exquisitely smooth skin, while others can eat the same diet and still experience a less-than-perfect complexion. So what does it really mean to nourish the skin and how can we use the findings of scientific research to make our skin look and feel healthier?
One nutrient that has been endlessly touted over the last few years is fish oil. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat that is necessary for the health and functioning of the human body. It’s true that, for many of us, fat is the missing link in our diets. It may be difficult to wrap your head around this idea, but fat is essential for your health. We need to consume healthy fat to nourish our brains, nervous system, and skin — but many of us have cut fat out of our diets since there has been so much press regarding the negative effects of fat on the body. Most of these negative effects, however, relate to the so-called bad fats, or saturated fats, that clog blood vessels and raise cholesterol. But there are good fats, such as omega 3′s, that provide important health benefits for the entire body. Is fish oil (a rich source of these omega-3 fatty acids) the solution? Will supplementing our diets with fish oil or eating seafood every day help us to attain younger-looking skin? Not necessarily.
The truth is, despite all the hype that fish oil has received in the media, it’s not clear what effect fish oil alone has on skin. There really is not a whole lot of clinical evidence available that validates the statements made by the media regarding fish oil and wrinkle reduction. First of all, fish oil is not the only healthy fat we need in our diets and it’s also not even the only dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. Read on to learn about a few of the myths circulating about the beauty benefits served up by fish oil.
Myth: The main benefit of fish oil is its ability to add fat to the skin to plump up wrinkles. Many sources talk about the great wrinkle-reducing effects of fish oil when, in reality, these statements have been made without a lot of supporting clinical evidence. Fish oil may indeed make your skin appear healthier since it provides heart-healthy omega 3′s that improve the health of your whole body; however, fish oil is not likely to plump up your wrinkles and make them disappear. When it comes to the skin, fish oil’s main benefit may actually be its potential ability to calm skin inflammation – it seems to be helpful in relieving symptoms of psoriasis, acne, eczema, and rosacea.
Myth: You can only provide your body with omega-3 fatty acids by consuming fish and fish oils. You so commonly hear about eating fish and seafood to give your body omega-3 fatty acids that it has become a common misconception that fish is the only source of this type of fat. Omega-3s are also found in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, as well as quite a few fruits and vegetables such as spinach and Brussels sprouts. Moreover, fish oil supplements can be integrated into your diet as well. Consult your doctor for more information about your individual needs for daily omega-3 intake as well as the best sources for you.
Myth: The only diet change you need to make to dramatically reduce your wrinkles is to incorporate fatty fish or to supplement with fish oil capsules. While the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are great for your overall health, they will not just make your wrinkles vanish. It is important to take the claims you hear about the effects of fish oil on aging skin with a grain of salt as there just isn’t much evidence to back them up. What has been proven, however, is that a well-balanced diet can do wonders for the health of your body which is reflected in healthy, beautiful skin. Make sure you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants that reduce cellular oxidative damages which age the skin, lean proteins (low in saturated fats), whole grains, and unsaturated fats — both polyunsaturated (contained in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, soybeans and soybean oil, and seafood) and mono-unsaturated (contained in olive and canola oils, avocados, nuts, and nut butters) — in order to keep your skin looking healthier and younger for longer.
I don’t mean to understate the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, or fish oil as a potential source of these. Fish oils may be beneficial for the skin (as well as the rest of the body). However, it is important to maintain realistic expectations regarding the effects that fish oils may have in terms of skin rejuvenation. If you practice healthy habits and eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and good sources of unsaturated fats, chances are that your diet will nourish your skin and keep it looking healthy and vibrant – and beauty does not have to be any more complicated than that.