Your diet has a huge effect on your overall health and can also affect the appearance of your skin. One of the most noted anti-aging diet tips is to consume fewer calories than you need (a.k.a. caloric restriction).
Caloric restriction is defined as a 20-40% reduction in the number of calories consumed (compared to a normal caloric intake), while still consuming the recommended amount of all essential nutrients .
Evidence suggests that calorie restriction can protect against a variety of different diseases, increase lifespan, counteract aging, reduce insulin resistance, increase immunity, and limit the progression of cancer .
In terms of skin benefits, caloric restriction can increase the number of stem cells that help the growth and maintenance of new skin cells and tissue .
One method of calorie restriction is intermittent fasting – where a person only eats during a certain window of time. There are various different versions of intermittent fasting, including alternate-day fasting, 24-hour fasts, and time-restricted feeding.
Intermittent fasting is now a trending weight loss method but has been a part of some religions and cultures for centuries.
But what are the benefits of intermittent fasting for your skin?
Intermittent Fasting, Autophagy, & Skin Aging.
It is thought that the health benefits of both calorie restriction and intermittent fasting are mainly due to the fact that they increase autophagy. In addition, intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin levels, as well as improve the quality of mitochondria.
Mitochondria are the organelles within cells that create the energy required for the cell to function. This process naturally produces free radicals that can damage DNA, including mitochondrial DNA, which then alters the mitochondria’s ability to function properly.
Unfortunately, this creates a cycle where dysfunctional mitochondria produce even more free radicals which damage more mitochondrial DNA and lead to more dysfunctional mitochondria. As our age increases, mitochondrial function declines and more free radicals are produced. This is one of the more popular theories of aging .
Autophagy, literally meaning ‘self-eating’, is an evolutionary process where our body ‘recycles’ cells by targeting damaged cells and digesting them in order to create new, healthier cells. The autophagy process is increased when our body experiences certain types of stress such as skipping meals and consuming a reduced amount of calories .
Evidence suggests that skin aging is associated with, and partially caused by, defective autophagy. This is due to the fact that a number of the cellular process that underlies skin aging are triggered or increased by the presence of damaged molecules within cells .
In other words, if these damaged cells aren’t ‘recycled’ through the process of autophagy, they can initiate cellular skin aging processes.
One example of this is the accumulation in dysfunctional mitochondria mentioned earlier. Recycling cells containing damaged mitochondria into new, healthy, and functional cells may help delay skin aging.
Overall, autophagy and aging are linked in the following ways:
- Autophagy reduces the rate of aging.
- The activity of autophagy decreases with age.
Research has also demonstrated that caloric restriction can reduce the irritation experienced with topical retinoids, which are commonly used in anti-aging regimens, without affecting their therapeutic benefits. It was concluded that this observation was likely due to an increase in antioxidant levels and an inhibitory effect on the enzymes that break down collagen .
As the levels of collagen within the skin decrease with age, this research highlights another anti-aging benefit of autophagy associated with caloric restriction and intermittent fasting – the maintenance of collagen levels.
Other Skin Benefits of Intermittent Fasting & Autophagy.
The reduced activity of autophagy leads to reductions in the number of stem cells, reduced protection against environmental factors and microbes, and an increase in the accumulation of damaged cells.
This means that as well as protecting the skin against aging, autophagy can also protect the skin from infections and various skin conditions, including psoriasis and vitiligo.
Autophagy also helps to prevent and reduce skin inflammation, improve wound healing, reduce oxidative stress, and maintain skin barrier function . All of which are also factors that can help reduce the signs of visible aging and help you look younger than your age.
So, not only can intermittent fasting and caloric restriction help you lose weight and reduce your risk of some diseases, but it can also prevent aging – both internally and externally. Are you tempted to try one of the most popular recent dieting trends?
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute as medical advice. It is essential to consult your doctor or appropriate health/medical professional before making any drastic changes to your diet.
- Canto, C. & Auwerx, J. (2009). ‘Caloric restriction, SIRT1 and longevity’, Trends Endocrinol Metabol., 20(7), 325-331. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3627124/
- Longo, V. & Mattson, M. (2014). ‘Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications’, Cell Metab., 19(2), 181-192. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24440038/
- Sailaja, B., He, X., Li, L. (2015). ‘Stem cells matter in response to fasting’, Cell Rep., 13(11), 2325-2326. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26705824/
- Ivanova, D. & Yankova, T. (2013). ‘The free radical theory of aging in search of a strategy for increasing life span’, Folia Medica, 55(1), 33-41. Available at: https://content.sciendo.com/configurable/contentpage/journals$002ffolmed$002f55$002f1$002farticle-p33.xml
- Antunes, F., Erustes, A., Costa, A. et al. (2018). ‘Autophagy and intermittent fasting: the connection for cancer therapy?’, Clinics, 73, Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6257056/
- Eckhart, L., Tschachler, E. & Gruber, F. (2019). ‘Autophagic control of skin aging’, Front Cell Dev Biol., 7, 143. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcell.2019.00143/full
- Varani, J., Bhagavathula, N., Aslam, M. et al. (2008). ‘Inhibition of retinoic acid-induced skin irritation in calorie-restricted mice’, Arch Dermatol Res., 300(1), 27-35. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17968574/
- Sil, P., Wong, S. & Martinez, J. (2018). ‘More than skin deep: Autophagy is vital for skin barrier function’, Front Immunol., 9, 1376. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6026682/
Laura is a skincare addict and sunscreen enthusiast with more than 10 years of experience working in healthcare and over 5 years of experience working as a nurse. She has experience in plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, and aesthetics and has received training in laser treatments. Laura is currently working in healthcare education and writes for ScienceBecomesHer in her spare time. Read More.