An Anti-Wrinkle Diet: Nutritional Strategies to Combat Oxidation, Inflammation and Glycation

Rajani Katta, MD; Ariadna Perez Sanchez, MD; Evelyne Tantry


Skin Therapy Letter. 2020;25(2):3-7. 

In This Article


The accumulation of AGEs within the body arises from two main sources. The first is via endogenous production in the presence of hyperglycemia. The second is via the ingestion of foods that contain preformed AGEs, also known as dietary AGEs.

Therefore, nutritional strategies to limit AGE-induced tissue damage focus on three main areas. The first is a focus on patterns, foods, and compounds that limit hyperglycemia. The second is a focus on foods and compounds that limit the biochemical processes of glycation. The third is limited ingestion of dietary AGEs. Additional strategies, as outlined previously, include a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods, as these processes are closely intertwined with glycation.

Limiting Hyperglycemia

Improving glycemic control is a key strategy in limiting AGE production. In one experimental study, improved glycemic control in human volunteers over a 4-month period resulted in significantly decreased new collagen glycation.[50] In fact, a key tenet of an anti-wrinkle diet is diabetes prevention. A full review of dietary strategies to limit hyperglycemia is beyond the scope of this review, and readers are referred to comprehensive reviews on this subject.[51]

Strategies supported by research include a low glycemic load diet, which focuses on low glycemic index foods as well as portion sizes.[52,53] Food groups and components with demonstrated benefits include fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, and others.[51] Eating order (with protein consumed earlier)[54] and vinegar consumption with a meal[55] have also demonstrated benefits. Specific foods that have shown promise include garlic, onions,[56] nuts,[57] turmeric,[58] cinnamon,[48] fenugreek,[59] and a number of other spices.[60]

Foods and Compounds That Limit Glycation

A number of dietary compounds have demonstrated the ability to inhibit AGE biosynthesis.[61] Some limit glycation via their antioxidant properties, while others act via other mechanisms, such as trapping reactive intermediate compounds.[61–63]

In laboratory studies, anti-glycation properties have been demonstrated by foods such as cinnamon,[64] garlic,[65] rosemary,[66] yerba mate,[67] and tomato paste.[68] One laboratory study evaluating multiple foods demonstrated significant anti-glycation activity by ginger, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, and green tea.[69] Phytonutrients exhibiting beneficial effects include the flavonoids luteolin, quercetin, and rutin,[70] as well as the phenolic acids ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid, vanillic acid, and others.[71] In animal studies, curcumin has inhibited collagen cross-linking,[72] while green tea extracts have reduced AGE formation[73] and inhibited collagen cross-linking.[74]

In a laboratory study specifically evaluating the anti-glycation potential of polyphenols in herbs and spices, the most potent spices were cloves, allspice, and cinnamon, while potent herbs included sage, marjoram, tarragon, and rosemary.[75] The researchers noted that level of inhibition correlated with total phenolic content. Similar findings were seen in a study evaluating spices used in European cuisine, with strong activity by star anise, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and oregano.[76]

Strategies to Reduce Dietary AGEs

Dietary strategies to limit ingestion of preformed AGEs focus on three main areas. These include the type of food, cooking method, and use of ingredients that modify AGE production.

Meat products, high in fat and protein, contain some of the highest levels of dietary AGEs, and are particularly prone to developing new AGEs during cooking.[77] High-fat cheeses are also relatively high in AGEs. In contrast, carbohydrate-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain low levels.

Cooking methods have a marked impact on AGE production. Dry heat methods such as grilling, roasting, and frying can increase AGE levels by 10 to 100 times.[77] Reduction strategies include moist cooking methods such as steaming and boiling, as well as cooking for lower temperatures and for shorter times. It is noteworthy that even with cooking, foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains remain relatively low in AGEs. The exception is for carbohydrate-rich foods that are also high in fat, such as biscuits.

An additional strategy is the use of ingredients such as lemon juice and vinegar prior to cooking, as these reduce the amount of AGEs ultimately produced.[77]