New French research suggests that a high intake of olive oil and other monounsaturated fats may protect the skin against sun-related aging.
The study, published in the Public Library of Science, was designed to build on the hypothesis that monounsaturated fatty acids reduce oxidative damage in the body, in addition to decreasing insulin resistance and inflammation, all of which may reduce aging of the skin due to sun damage or ‘photo-aging’.
The cross-sectional study included 1,264 women and 1,655 men, all between 45 and 60 years old. Dietary intake records where completed by participants at least ten times in the first two-and-a-half years of follow up, allowing intake of monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and other sources to be estimated. Skin photo-aging was then graded by photographs.
The results obtained in the study suggested that a lower risk of severe photo-aging was associated with higher intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil, as well as from other vegetable oils. However, of the most commonly consumed vegetables oils, olive, peanut and sunflower, olive oil intake showed the greatest association with reduced aging, and was the only association that was statistically significant.
Although monounsaturated fats were associated with reduced risk of skin aging overall in both sexes, there was no association between the monounsaturated fatty acids found in meat, dairy or processed meats. The reason for this is not clear, as dairy products provide similar amounts of monounsaturated fats as olive oil. However, the authors of the study hypothesized that this could be due to the high level of unhealthy saturated fats also present in dairy foods, or possibly the polyphenols in olive oil, which are thought to protect against cell damage.
The authors concluded that the results supported the beneficial effect of olive oil on the aging of the skin, although admit that as participants who consumed more olive oil also had healthier overall diets, this may also play a part in the protective effect. Although the results seem to indicate yet another health benefit of a diet rich in olive oil, further investigation is needed in this area to determine the mechanism by which monounsaturated fats or other compounds in olive oil protect against skin aging.
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A diet high in olive oil is widely regarded to be beneficial for health, with research suggesting it provides protection against a wide range of conditions including heart disease, stroke, arthritis and even some forms of cancer. Although further research is needed to determine the exact effect a diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids has on the aging process of the skin, there seems little doubt that olive oil is one of the most beneficial fat sources for our health.