As we enter Veganuary and more people then ever are adopting a vegan or plant based diary. We explore whether such a diet can have on aging.
We all want the secret to healthy, glowing, youthful skin. So many cosmetics claim to reverse the signs of ageing. However, more often than not, it’s what is on the inside that counts. As well as supporting the skin on the outside with high-quality skincare products, your diet and hydration can play a massive part in the health and wellness of your skin. So, if you’re looking to retain your youthful looks for even longer, is a plant-based diet the answer?
As time progresses, ageing affects the body in a variety of ways. One of the ways that ageing occurs is through shortening telomeres. Every cell in the human body contains 46 chromosomes. At the end of each of these chromosomes, there is a cap, which is known as a telomere. As ageing progresses, these telomeres become shorter. The telomere eventually expires, which leads to the death of the cell.
Consequently, telomeres are seen as a marker of health and longevity. The more telomere activity, the younger the body appears to be. The more damage to the telomeres, the more apparent the signs of ageing. So much so, that scientists can determine your biological age from your telomere length.
There are lots of factors that can influence your biological age and therefore, telomere length. Some aspects which can cause shorter telomeres include the amount of sleep you have, other factors include physical exercise, diet and gene mutations.
Studies have also shown that depression and adversity can also shorten telomeres. One study found that children who’d lost their fathers had shorter telomeres by comparison. Furthermore, another study found a link between adversity in childhood, such as poverty or violence and shortened telomeres.
In order to reduce the signs of biological ageing, it is important to protect and support the telomeres. One way to do this is to avoid the negative factors that shorten telomeres, where possible.
However, research has also found that a plant-based diet doesn’t just protect telomeres from shortening but can actually elongate the telomeres. A study in The Lancet Oncology found that men who adopted a low-fat, plant-based diet saw their telomeres increasing in length.
This is not the only way that a plant-based diet can reduce the signs of ageing;
Over time, skin can lose its volume and, therefore, its youthfulness. This is partly to do with the fact that the production of collagen depletes with age. With a lack of collagen, skin can begin to sag and become wrinkled. However, a wholefoods plant-based diet is naturally rich in collagen-boosting ingredients. Typically, a plant-based diet is high in vitamin C, lysine and antioxidants, all of which help with the production of collagen at a cellular level. In turn, this helps the skin to stay supple and youthful-looking.
Another aspect of a plant-based diet is a high level of beta-carotene. This is found in colourful fruits and vegetables such as carrots, kale, spinach and tomatoes. Beta-carotene supports skin health and promotes a glowing appearance.
Another key characteristic of how a plant-based diet improves skin health is the fact that research suggests dairy may play a part in acne and acne scarring. By reducing or eliminating dairy from the diet, individuals may see increased healing in acne scars and a reduction in acne. Of course, this should be in conjunction with increasing the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables and limiting the intake of processed foods.
While eating meat is often linked to higher levels of protein, a well-balanced plant-based diet has sufficient protein. A plant-based diet offers high-nutrient plant-based protein which can help to maintain a youthful muscle structure. Nuts, seeds, pulses, quinoa are all good sources of plant proteins. Interestingly, muscle loss with age typically occurs in those who have a high-calorie intake from animal-based and proceeded food as well as from a sedentary lifestyle.
Maintaining a youthful muscle structure for as long as possible not only helps to improve mobility in later life as well as keeping up with your current exercise levels, but it also applies to the aesthetics of ageing, helping to maintain the structure of the face and body, keeping it looking toned and youthful.
It may be well looking good and reversing the signs of ageing outwardly, but it is essential to feel good too. With ageing comes a risk of degenerative diseases which can reduce quality of life. However, several small studies have found that a plant-based whole foods diet can help to improve cardiovascular health. This can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cholesterol levels and some cancers. It can also lessen the risks of osteoarthritis as well as prevent the disease progression.
A plant-based diet has also been shown to reduce the risks of complications in chronic kidney disease too. As more research is completed into plant-based eating, it is likely that there will be more evidence of a plant-based diet reducing the risks and symptoms of certain diseases.
For those that eat meat, it may be difficult to picture life as a vegan. However, focusing on a plant-based diet does not necessarily mean giving up meat, but instead favouring plant-based whole foods rather than animal-based products.
So far, research and relatively small studies have shown that a plant-based diet maybe a positive step for those looking to not only combat the signs of ageing but also helping people to age well, with health and vitality. Of course, larger more clinically robust studies are needed, so hopefully in time, as more and more people adopt a plant based only diet, such studies will manifest. In the meantime, as your skin is a great indicator of your health, perhaps, you can start to measure the effects of switching to a plant-based diet by analysing your complexion. Many people on a plant-based diet notice improved complexions, skin healing and moisturisation, which not only helps you to look younger but feel good about it too.
Just because a diet is vegan is doesn’t automatically make it healthy. It does take some commitment and planning to follow a healthy plant based diet.
Try to avoid processed foods and concentrate on whole plant based foods ( there are plenty of good vegan recipe apps, cooking programs and books to help).
B12 deficiency is a concern and a good B12 supplement or fortified cereal is very important.
The Essential fatty acid Omega 3, particularly the EPA and DHA subtypes can also sometimes be lacking in plant based only diets. Good sources of EPA and DHA are found in Algae such as Spirulina and Chorella ( again you may want to take a plant marine algae Omega 3 supplement).