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The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life. -Frank Lloyd Wright American architect, 1867-1959
If you're wondering what the FACE program is all about, I can sum it up for you in a single sentence: The outward appearance of beautiful skin starts on the inside, and wrinkled, blemished skin does not have to be an inevitable result of aging. FACE, as you discovered in the Introduction, is an acronym for Free radicals, Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), Cortisol, and Eicosanoids-bodily processes that need to be understood and controlled in order to protect the health of your skin and total body.Fortunately, this is what the FACE program does so successfully. As a multipronged approach to simultaneously addressing multiple causes of aging, this program can in many ways be thought of as a "Unified Theory of Aging."
GOOD REASONS TO SIGN UP FOR THE FACE PROGRAM
Considering all the "miraculous" antiaging solutions that are vying for your attention, what's the advantage of giving the FACE program a try? Because it's the only truly comprehensive approach to ultimate skin health. Also, the FACE program does not claim that there is one single "aging demon," the control of which will do everything for everyone.
For example, some popular antiwrinkle programs focus on controlling inflammation. Although this is a great place to start, inflammation is only one of the primary causes of premature aging; therefore, inflammation-control programs are automatically limited in their overall effects and benefits. Then there are the anti-acne programs that focus only on slathering the skin with topical creams to control pimples-but do nothing to modulate the day-to-day skin metabolism that leads to acne in the first place. Likewise there are antiaging programs that focus on controlling free radicals with topical antioxidant creams or supplements, or that focus only on controlling glycation by eating less sugar and by eating foods with a lower glycemic index. The result? Limited programs with limited focus lead to limited benefits for you.
I'm not against all such programs. I think many of them offer some hope and some help. But why give yourself less than the whole solution? Why would you choose a program that was more complicated to follow and more limited in scope, when the FACE program enables you to control all four metabolic aspects of aging at the same time with a single, easy-to-follow regimen?
GETTING TO THE ROOTS OF THE SKIN-DAMAGE CYCLE
Being more than skin deep, the FACE program nourishes your skin by getting to the roots of the skin-damage cycle.
Scientists and doctors both agree that excessive inflammation (which is caused by eicosanoids and cytokines) can lead to accelerated skin damage and breakdown, so it makes a lot of sense to control inflammation to promote skin health. But if we look deeper to find the causes of inflammation, we quickly see other factors that we can control. Since oxidation (which is caused by free radicals) leads to inflammation at the cellular level, why not control oxidation? Great idea-but why not look even further up the metabolic chain of events to see if we can control or modulate the causes of oxidation.
When we do this, we see that glycation (cellular damage caused by sugars) can lead to oxidation (which can, in turn, lead to inflammation)-so we have another factor that we can address. Should we stop there? Of course not, because when we look even higher up the metabolic stream, we see that stress (and the cortisol exposure that stress causes) can lead to glycation, which can lead to oxidation, which in turn leads to inflammation. Unfortunately, we don't currently know enough from scientific or medical research to go any further "upstream" with regard to the metabolic control of cellular aging. Stress is as far upstream as we can go at this time-but that's still pretty good.
This gives us four aspects of metabolism that we can address to control skin structure and function-and, therefore, appearance. Perhaps the best news of all is that each of these four aspects of metabolism is easily controlled by factors related to lifestyle: diet, exercise, stress management, and the use of natural products, such as supplements and topicals.
WHAT IS "FACE"?
As I've mentioned, the acronym "FACE" stands for the four principal metabolic aspects of aging:
F = Free Radicals
This is where oxidation comes in. Free radicals are highly reactive forms of oxygen that can damage cell membranes and other cellular structures throughout the body-but especially in the skin. Free radicals come at us from internal sources, such as breathing and metabolizing food into energy, as well as from external sources, such as sunlight and air pollution. Luckily, we can control free-radical exposure and the cellular damage (termed "oxidation") that it causes through the antioxidant recommendations in the FACE program, which are discussed in Chapter 7.
A = Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs)
The abbreviation "AGEs" says it all. Advanced glycation makes you look older. Glycation is the process by which sugar molecules become attached to protein molecules and inhibit their normal functioning. Too much sugar-or, more precisely, poor control of blood sugar-can lead rapidly to an accumulation of glycated proteins, with the end result being skin problems such as increased wrinkles, swelling, redness, and acne. As with the control of free radicals described above, the nutritional recommendations in the FACE program are designed to control blood sugar by modulating the function and activity of insulin (the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar). These recommendations are presented in Chapter 8.
C = Cortisol
Cortisol, as explained in the Introduction, is the body's primary stress hormone. So whenever we're under stress, we're exposed to cortisol. Cortisol production in the body is a normal part of human life. It only becomes a problem when we're exposed to too much of it on a chronic basis-a scenario that is simply all too common in the hurry-hurry, always "on" world of the twenty-first century. Cortisol overexposure leads invariably to increases in inflammation (see below), oxidation, and glycation. In many ways, cortisol is the "master controller" among the four metabolic pathways addressed by the FACE program, so while the biggest bang for your buck in terms of promoting skin health will come from controlling cortisol (and by default, controlling the other aspects of skin aging), it makes sense to simultaneously control the other aspects in order to create a truly comprehensive approach. Recommendations for controlling cortisol are presented in Chapter 6.
E = Eicosanoids
The function of these inflammatory molecules (sometimes referred to as cytokines) is to regulate inflammation. Inflammation is a normal metabolic process with some life-sustaining benefits. For example, without a robust inflammatory process, we'd quickly succumb to bacterial and viral infections. However, when the inflammatory response becomes overactive (as it can with allergies and with some forms of heart disease) or misdirected (such as when it leads to more skin damage instead of less), we need to rebalance the inflammatory cascade back toward its natural anti-inflammatory mode. The FACE program not only helps to control inflammation directly (by modulating eicosanoids), it also helps to balance free radicals, AGEs, and cortisol-three aspects of metabolism that can lead to hyperinflammation when left unchecked. Recommendations for controlling eicosanoids are presented in Chapter 9.
"FACE" IN ACTION
You've heard the saying "You are what you eat." But did you ever stop to think that what you eat might also influence how you look? Based on several recent scientific studies and many decades of population studies, we now know quite clearly that nutritional factors can influence skin health in a variety of ways. For example, your choice of diet can promote or prevent many of the metabolic factors associated with acne, wrinkles, discoloration, and the very process of skin aging itself. The following is a summary of dietary actions called for in the FACE program. Each of these topics is discussed in more detail in later chapters.
What Not to Eat
When it comes to diet and skin health, we know a great deal about what not to do. This boils down to avoiding or limiting your intake of highly refined carbohydrates, sodas, and processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup and trans-fats (the label will say "hydrogenated oil" or "partially hydrogenated oil"). Why do you need to avoid these types of highly processed foods? Because they set off a metabolic chain reaction in the body that leads to unhealthy elevations in blood sugar, insulin, cortisol, cytokines, and free radicals. Yikes!
Not only are these metabolic events bad for your long-term health, they're also bad for both your long- and short-term appearance. For example, chowing down on that monster-sized, white-flour bagel (which contains lots of refined carbs) leads to microscopic tissue destruction via a number of related events, including:
Spikes in blood-sugar and insulin levels, which lead to protein glycation and destruction of collagen and elastin (key structural proteins in healthy skin)
Elevated cortisol levels, which lead to imbalances in the inflammatory process in favor of proinflammatory eicosanoids (which lead to swelling, redness, and further tissue damage)
Inflammatory eicosanoid signaling, which elevates free-radical destruction of tissue membranes throughout the body-especially in the skin
What's Good to Eat
It's not a pleasant thought that poor dietary choices can lead to so much destructive metabolism in your body. But all of us make these choices many times a day-indeed, every time we eat! Luckily, the availability of very good scientific evidence can help us choose a diet providing ingredients that will not only reduce these detrimental metabolic chain reactions but actually prevent and reverse the effects on skin health caused by glycation, inflammation, and all the rest.
Here are some of the easiest ways to control these metabolic marauders:
Eat more of the right kinds of fats (and less of the bad kind).
Eat fewer refined carbohydrates (and more whole-grain carbs).
Eat more antioxidants (found in brightly colored fruits/veggies) and use supplements.
Reduce stress (or control your exposure to the stress hormone cortisol).
Good Fats, Good Carbs
The type of fat and the type of carbohydrate that you eat are vitally important in determining your overall level of inflammation and ultimate risk for heart disease. This information is based on very convincing data collected on more than ninety thousand women and fifty thousand men by researchers at Harvard University since the mid-1970s. Their recommendations in dietary choices focus on healthy fats (olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, and peanut oils) and healthy carbohydrates (whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice), and the consumption of these is associated with a 30-40 percent reduction in risk for inflammatory heart disease. And eating more monounsaturated oils is associated with better hydration and pH of the skin, according to a recent study by Dutch researchers, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February 2003),which supports the Harvard recommendations. Additionally, the astonishing differences in acne rates between populations eating a high intake of refined carbohydrates (adult acne rates as high as 40-54 percent) and populations eating fewer refined carbs (virtually zero adult acne) have been noted by researchers from the University of Colorado in the Archives of Dermatology (2002).
Modern diets supply roughly twenty to twenty-five times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. This situation predisposes our bodies toward proinflammatory cytokines and systemic inflammation. The best way to address this imbalance is to limit your intake of omega-6 fats (especially fried foods; for more information see Chapter 9) while simultaneously increasing your consumption of omega-3 fats-for example, by eating fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and bluefish. For people who can't or don't want to eat more fatty fish, a daily fish oil supplement can provide the omega-3s needed to help quell inflammatory cytokines. A number of studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of dietary omega-3 fatty acids can help to modulate skin inflammation.
Brighter Is Better
Be sure to include representatives of the entire antioxidant network (vitamins C and E, thiols, carotenoids, and flavonoids). Korean researchers have reported in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2001) that free radicals are intimately involved in the inflammatory process that leads to accelerated skin aging. Choose brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as berries, tomatoes, and carrots, for the highest content of carotenoids and flavonoids. When supplementing, avoid megadoses of single antioxidant compounds and focus instead on selecting products that provide a balanced blend from among each category of the antioxidant network.
Cortisol is elevated in response to stressful events, a lack of sleep, and even dieting. Researchers in London have reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association that even short periods of stress can increase levels of cortisol and cytokines in the blood-and those elevated cortisol/cytokine levels have been associated with development of the inflammatory "metabolic syndrome," a cluster of symptoms including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol (Circulation 2002). Effective cortisol control can be achieved by balancing carbohydrate intake with proteins and healthy fats and by adding a variety of dietary supplements to your daily regimen-for example, theanine, beta-sitosterol, and adaptogens such as cordyceps, ginseng, rhodiola, and others. In later chapters of this book, you'll find many valuable stress-reducing recommendations within the FACE program. In Chapter 11 in particular, our panel of skin-care experts touches on the importance of mindset and attitude in controlling stress.
A CONCLUDING WORD
As you can see, just as we are what we eat, in very general terms we also tend to look like what we eat! And who wants to look like junk? The solution is to FACE the nutritional facts and eat your way to healthy skin by focusing on healthy carbs and fats, controlling stress and cortisol, and including enough antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in your daily diet. In this way, you can truly achieve health and beauty from the inside out.
As discussed above, there is nothing wrong with following an antiwrinkle program based on "just" inflammatory control or "just" free-radical control. You'll undoubtedly see benefits from the age-old "salad and salmon" diets advocated by many dermatologists. However, as with all complicated scenarios, if your solution to a complex problem is too simple, then you're bound to spin your wheels and your results are likely to be limited. Such is the case with existing (limited) programs: You may be controlling inflammation, but you're losing ground to oxidation; and, while you're controlling oxidation, you're losing ground to glycation, and so on. The FACE program treats skin health from the perspective of metabolic control, and by addressing the cellular and hormonal aspects of skin metabolism, it gets right to the root of the problem.
Excerpted from Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection by SHAWN TALBOTT Copyright © 2007 by Shawn Talbott. Excerpted by permission.
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