The Kitchen Thinker: can you banish wrinkles with a brew?

Date:03-05-2014 07:58:08 read:1

The Kitchen Thinker: can you banish wrinkles with a brew?

Can you really eat yourself beautiful, and if so, which foods truly make a difference?

"Why don't beauty gurus ever recommend something easy, cheap and local like an apple?" Photo: RUTHLEWISILLUSTRATIONS.COM

I once went to an event organised by the people who promote wild Alaskan salmon. One woman had been flown in from Anchorage to tell us what salmon could do for our looks. "The reason women in Alaska have such beautiful wrinkle-free skin," she enthused, "especially the fisherwomen, is all the salmon they eat."

After the event, every so often, I would look in the mirror when putting on moisturiser and think, "Hmmm, should eat more Alaskan salmon." The tinned kind makes tasty fishcakes and occasionally I'd get fresh fillet of sockeye – meatier and richer than farmed salmon. And, as I ate it, I'd imagine my skin becoming firmer and more radiant. But it feels a bit ridiculous to be eating fish from so far away when we could be having herring or mackerel from our own seas. Plus, fresh Alaskan sockeye is pricey. It may be a great wrinkle deterrent if you are an Alaskan fisherwoman who can eat it for free. Here, not so much.

Most tips on ways to "eat yourself beautiful!" are like this. You will be told that if you want to minimise wrinkles you must eat one very specific food. Black radishes, avocado, buckwheat, blueberries have all been touted as the secret to skin repair. Blinking blueberries! Beauty gurus are obsessed with them. Why do they never recommend something easy, cheap and local like an apple? The most Marie-Antoinette-ish advice I saw said that the best way to get smooth skin was fish roe (ie caviar) because "ounce for ounce" it contains more omega-3 than oily fish!

It's not that the idea that eating better can help your skin is nonsense. There do seem to be nutrients that mitigate – somewhat – the effects of time and sun. Fats are good – especially olive oil – because they are needed to maintain dermal tissue. Fish oils (omega-3) have anti-inflammatory effects. Vitamin C is not a bad idea either. A study of more than 4,000 American women aged 40 to 74 found that higher vitamin-C intakes were associated with fewer wrinkles.

But it's hard to translate this information into how real people eat. By far the most interesting study I've found on which foods to eat to ward off wrinkles (by Purba et al 2001) looked at the skin and diets of actual ageing populations in three different places: Sweden, Australia and Greece. The diet of the least wrinkly changed from place to place.

In Greece, the people with the smoothest skin ate a lot of broad beans, cheese and green leafy vegetables and not many processed meats. In Sweden, they ate yogurt, spinach pie and eggs and smaller amounts of canned fruit, roast beef and fried potatoes. In Australia, which probably has the most similar diet to Britain of the three, the top anti-wrinkle foods and drinks included sardines, celery, asparagus, multigrain bread, cheese, apples, prunes and tea.

The thing I find most reassuring is that 34 per cent of the variation in skin of the Australians could be explained by just three things: apples, prunes and tea. If you are not keen to add to your wrinkles – and who is? – don't worry too much about the lack of caviar and black radishes in your diet. Eat an apple and have a cup of tea.

Follow @StellaMagazine

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013