It’s an interesting question. What does the science say? There is not a lot out there, but it is most likely that vegans age slower than meat-eaters. But that is not always the reality.
It depends on the type of vegan diet you consume and a few other factors.
Aging isn’t just about the wrinkles on your skin, but it is the predominant factor people see when judging age.
Aging impacts cellular repair and rejuvenation of all cells throughout the body, not just your skin. It’s essentially what contributes to longevity. And that is what everyone wants.
It shouldn’t just be about the way we look, but the way we can live a full, vibrant life for the longest amount of time…regardless of age.
But, if your skin ages less due to your diet, you can safely assume that the cellular good your diet is doing to your skin is working the same magic on the rest of your body.
So let’s look at the causes of aging.
The physical appearance of wrinkles caused by oxidative stress is predominately caused by photodamage from the sun. This happens because the UV rays cause oxidation which breaks down the collagen in the skin.
Oxidative stress causes aging all over the body, even in the brain. That is one of the reasons why people lose their memory as they get older.
Oxidation happens due to particles called free radicals. These particles are highly reactive because they are searching for an unpaired electron to become stable again. They cause all kinds of damage as they bounce around trying to become stabilized.
Free radicals are inevitable. They come from natural processes like breathing, but they also come from the toxins in our environment.
But, we can minimize this oxidation through foods that contain antioxidants.
Antioxidants stop the chain reaction caused by free radicals because they give an electron to the free radical without becoming destabilized. And, of course, we get these antioxidants from our diet.
Plant foods, on average, have over 60 times more antioxidant content than animal foods. So a whole foods vegan diet is more likely to have an abundance of antioxidants.
But not all plant foods have the same levels of antioxidants, and some are more prolific than others.
Which foods are the strongest wrinkle fighters?
The vegetables with the best concentration of antioxidants are the dark leafy green vegetables, but the other vegetables in the cruciferous family are pretty good. Onion and garlic are also powerhouse antioxidants. The fruits with the most antioxidants are generally berries.
A good rule of thumb is to pick fruit and vegetables with vivid colors. This is a good sign of antioxidant value.
Green tea is also packed with antioxidants that show a positive improvement in aging-related signs.
Another major cause of aging is inflammation. It has been found that meat-based and Western-style diets are positively associated with the biomarker C-reactive protein (CRP). This has shown to be the opposite of whole food predominate diets.
As we know, inflammation causes damage…to the whole body, not just the skin.
Not all vegan diets are whole-food based, so it shouldn’t be assumed that you are protected from this just because you are vegan. A combination of meat and processed foods tends to be the culprit on this one.
Suppose you eat a lot of refined sugar and flour, not many vegetables, and an inverse ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. In that case, you are more likely to have higher inflammation. This ultimately results in quicker aging. And this is true, regardless of being vegan or a meat-eater.
Epi…what? Simply put, it is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes express themselves. Let me explain further.
We are all born with a particular set of genes, but it has been shown that diet can change the way they are expressed. The more tightly it is coiled, the less the gene can express itself – this is bad! The foods we consume can adjust how tightly your DNA is coiled – either upgrading or downgrading your genes.
Stay with me on this one. This is a simplified version of how this works.
It would appear that the cell’s powerhouse, ‘the mitochondria,’ is where a lot of oxidation occurs. This is a natural process caused by making energy. But, to slow down the aging of the mitochondria from oxidation, it needs a particular type of antioxidant called mitochondrial superoxide dismutase.
The levels of this antioxidant vary in different people due to genetics.
Women have more than men, hence one of the reasons they probably live longer. However, people who have plant-based diets have been found to have significantly higher levels of mitochondrial superoxide dismutase activity. This makes their mitochondria last longer.
The upshot is, you can epigenetically increase your levels of this antioxidant through easing the tightness of the DNA coil by adopting a plant-based diet to live longer and in better health.
Now that we have discussed some of the causes of aging, there is a side note that you may not like.
Being slender can make you look much older!
Wrinkles become more pronounced if you are thin and don’t have much body fat in your facial area. As a whole, vegans tend to be leaner than most.
But let’s put some perspective on this.
Being leaner has a whole lot more health benefits than having a little less facial fat.
What can I do to minimize wrinkles?
Being vegan isn’t going to age you faster. In fact, it is going to improve your longevity. However, if you are a lean vegan, you may see your wrinkles appearing due to decreased body fat. So here are some general principles to follow to minimize those wrinkles that inevitably arrive.
- Protect your skin from the sun – Use non-toxic sunscreen at all times. Try to avoid the direct sun in the middle of the day. Particularly if you live on or close to the equator.
- Moisturize your skin daily – using a moisturizer each day will help make the wrinkles less visible.
- Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables – the more color, the better due to the diverse range of antioxidants packed into them.
- Quit the refined sugar – what more can we say but INFLAMMATION, INFLAMMATION, INFLAMMATION!!!!!!!
- Get your healthy fats on – nuts, avocado, olive oil. Get a good selection of omega-3 fats daily into your diet. It plumps up your skin and makes it supple and smooth.
As a vegan, eating a diverse range of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and whole grains, you will inevitably have a more robust immune system, reduced inflammation, optimal genetic expression, which all combined together slows the aging process…not just the wrinkles.