Fat is a word that makes most people cringe and it has been blamed for nearly everything from heart attacks to liver disease. There are several types of fat and not all of those fats are created the same way. Some fats are incredibly nourishing and necessary for hormone production. In fact, a total avoidance of fat can lead to a variety of problems, including causing the skin to become dry, weak and aged.
The right type of dietary fat can work wonders on your skin. However, before you begin adding fat to your diet, you should be aware of which kinds of fat are beneficial for good health and a healthy glow of your skin.
Bad Fats: Polyunsaturated Fat
There are two basic types of fats, saturated and unsaturated. Within these groups are subcategories. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are a type of unsaturated fats that are liquid at most temperatures and are deficient in hydrogen atoms. Saturated fats are solid at room temperatures.
The major problem with PUFAs is that they are highly unstable. All fats have a temperature at which they oxidize. The resulting compounds (lipid oxidation products) may be unhealthy when metabolized. Unstable fats are prone to oxidation depending on their degree of unsaturation, exposure to heat and light and how they are processed. Oxidation may generate free radicals which lead to damage within your body and on the skin.
When PUFAs are processed, many are exposed to high heat. This can cause the oils to degrade into hydroperoxides and alkenals which are toxic to cells. The oils can also be exposed to high heat when they are incorporated into products being transported from one place to another. This will also cause the oils to become toxic. For the most part these oils are required to be shipped in sealed, dark containers and kept cold, but this does not always happen.
Most polyunsaturated fats come in liquid form and sit in bottles where they can oxidize easily. By the time we consume them, they enter the body and cause inflammation. The free radicals produced during oxidation (in the bottle) react with our DNA and the proteins in a cell, causing abnormalities of structure and function.
How free radicals and fats work against the skin
You are probably familiar with the term “free radicals”, but you may not know why they are harmful to the body and skin. These are molecules produced in healthy cells through reactive oxygen species that then damage components of the cell. Free radicals must be neutralized by antioxidants or they will cause a sequence of issues that accelerate the aging of the cell. As the cells age, the rest of the body does as well because cells make up organs and organs make up the entire body. So, in understanding skin aging, we have to start with the cell. In the case of consuming PUFAs, their contribution to oxidative stress contributes to damage of the cells of the skin, which shows on the skin as a whole.
How polyunsaturated fats may contribute to skin aging
PUFA consumption speeds up the aging process in many ways, all tracing back to their metabolism-suppressing effects. Here are some of the ways PUFAs may contribute to skin aging:
– Oxidation: In the cell, oxidation causes cell damage and mutation. This includes the skin cells. Damaged, unhealthy skin cells are the building blocks for aged, wrinkled and unhealthy skin.
–Interfering with thyroid hormones: The thyroid is essential for metabolism. Without a healthy thyroid, your body will be deprived of energy. This will manifest as fatigue and a dull complexion. Also, low thyroid function leads to inflammation, a root cause of many skin diseases including eczema and psoriasis.
-Weak Digestion: PUFAs may inhibit the secretion of digestive enzymes, which inhibits protein digestion. Poor digestion, especially poor protein digestion creates a deficiency of proteins, the building blocks for skin and hair.
–Increased Toxicity: PUFAs derived mostly from GMO crops like corn, soy and rapeseed (source of canola oil), may increase exposure to chemical pesticides. These toxins can contribute to everything from skin problems to cancer by weakening the endocrine system and causing chronic inflammation.
–Age Spots: Skin spots, liver spots or other pigmentation issues are often the result of oxidative stress. Keep in mind that anything you eat will eventually, to some degree circulate to your skin – the skin is a detoxification organ. So if your body is overburdened with dietary oils, your body will try to process or eliminate the oxidation products via the skin and other detoxification organs (liver, kidneys). However, if you’re generating free radicals by baking in the sun, causing skin aging, never put PUFAs on your skin, either.