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Antioxidants: The Missing Link In Preventing Wrinkles, Skin Damage and Slowing Skin Aging

James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP

In recent years a number of studies have shown that antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements provide skin cells with important protection against ultra-violet light damage from the sun, as well as tanning beds.  Antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene selenium, zinc, and manganese have been shown to concentrate within skin cells after oral consumption, and participate in reactions that help curtail the free radial damage associated with accelerated skin aging (photo-aging), wrinkling, aging spots and skin cancer. In general, the research suggests that individuals should take a High Potency Multiple Vitamin and Mineral each day that is antioxidant enriched, as an additional means to slow skin aging, wrinkling and help block steps that are linked to skin cancer development.

How Does Skin Damage Occur
What we know is that ultra-violet light damages the skin by generating free radicals within skin cells. Developing skin cells below the surface contain oxygen, which can be transformed into a free radical when it absorbs energy from ultra-violet light. Essentially, photon energy from the sun or tanning beds injects the oxygen within skin cells with an extra parcel of energy known as an electron, which converts oxygen into an aggressive free radical known as the Superoxide Anion. Additional reactions can also occur to form other types of free radicals, such as hydroxyl radicals and singlet oxygen. Once formed, these various types of free radicals cause extensive damage to various parts of the skin cell, including its outer skin (cell membrane), enzymes, lipids, proteins, as well causing mutations in the DNA of the cell.  This damage manifests itself in accelerated aging of the skin, and in a growing number of cases, skin cancer. Skin cancer is now the most prevalent cancer in North America, with 30% of all Caucasians expected to develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime, according to recent trends. The formation of wrinkles is linked to free radical damage that occurs in the dermis (a deeper layer of the skin), when collagen fibers become cross-linked (twisted) along with increased synthesis and deposition of elastin and fibrin (skin protein structures) and displacement and structural changes to other supporting structures in the skin, known as the glycosaminoglycans (dermatan sulfate and hyaluronic acid).

Antioxidants To The Rescue
Like other cells in the body, skin cells contain antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase), which quench and neutralize free radicals within skin cells. However, these enzymes cannot prevent ultra-violet light- induced skin damage by themselves and require additional support from Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Beta-carotene, Lycopene and Zinc, Manganese, on a daily basis. Human studies reveal that supplementation with antioxidant nutrients, at levels beyond which can be obtained from food alone, provide skin cells and the dermal layers with significant protection from the free radicals generated from exposure to ultra-violet light. In well designed, placebo-controlled studies, antioxidant supplementation has been shown to reduce skin inflammation, sunburn reaction, DNA-damage, protein oxidation and alterations to the dermal layers, upon exposure to ultra-violet light, compared to the control group who were given the placebo supplement (the dummy pill)

Additionally, orally ingested antioxidants are known to be incorporated into the skin oils that sit on the surface of the skin (skin surface lipids), and provide added antioxidant protection to the skin by preventing the build up of free radicals (peroxides) within our oily surface skin secretions. Peroxides are another type of free radical that can be formed in the skin and cause skin damage, if left unchecked.

It is noteworthy that many companies are now putting antioxidant vitamins into their topical skin lotions based on our understanding of the importance of quenching UV-light-induced free radicals. However, as admirable as that appears to be, the truth is that the most effective way to get extra antioxidant protection into every single developing skin cell below the surface (where the real damage occurs) is via the oral ingestion of antioxidant supplements. The reason is that developing skin cells extract these antioxidants from the bloodstream and concentrate these antioxidants within their cell structure, enabling the antioxidant to protect the cell should it encounter UV-light-induced free radicals. Topical lotions, enriched with antioxidant vitamins, are simply not as effective in this regard. To be safe, you simply have to get some targeted antioxidant protection from a nutritional supplement.

The Bottom Line In UV-Light Protection
There are now sufficient human studies to prove that, in addition to reducing your exposure to ultra-violet light, wearing protective clothing, and using protective suntan lotions, you should also consider ingesting an Antioxidant-Enriched Multiple Vitamin and Mineral Supplement each day to help optimize protection against premature skin aging, skin cell mutations, and skin wrinkling.

Antioxidant Daily Dosages:
Studies suggest that the following antioxidant dosages be ingested daily as an integral part of lifelong skin care management:
Vitamin C – 1,000 mg (500 mg, twice daily)
Vitamin E – 400 IU (I recommend natural source as vitamin E succinate)
Beta –carotene – 10,000 – 15,000 IU
Selenium – 100- 200 mcg
Zinc – 15 mg
Manganese – 5 mg
Lycopene Extract – 6 mg

As well, other nutrients contained within a High Potency Multi-Vitamin also provide important benefits to skin health. For example, the B-vitamin niacin has been shown to help reduce sun-damage to the skin by enabling skin cells to generate more energy, which in turn provides additional energy to repair damage to their DNA, after exposure to UV-light. Many B-vitamins and other nutrients are also required for normal skin cell development and for the conversion of essential fatty acids into specific local hormones (prostaglandin series-1 and series 3), which make skin cells softer and smoother, and slow skin aging.


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