Health

Your Vegan Diet Is Causing Early Aging

By Nicole Dominique··  7 min read
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Your Vegan Diet Is Causing Early Aging shutterstock

People often think of sun damage and heavy smoking as the leading causes of early aging, but what if the biggest culprit of premature wrinkles is actually diet-related?

Anti-aging creams, serums, and facial rejuvenation services have always been the rage. Today, the anti-aging market is expected to reach an estimated revenue of $64 million by 2026. 

But skincare products are just one way to support skin health and prevent premature wrinkles and sagging. Many of the proteins and nutrients like collagen, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin A that have anti-aging properties and are added as ingredients to skincare can also be found in our food.

However, most of them are found in animal sources – which could be bad news for the vegans and vegetarians who might struggle to get these nutrients from eating plants alone.

How Eating Meat Helps You Appear Youthful

People who try a raw vegan diet may feel great for a little while since they’re forced to cut out processed meat and packaged foods, but it may not be so beneficial in the long term. Vegans are more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin B12 and iron, which are both commonly found in animal products. Not having an adequate amount of minerals and vitamins can cause some unfortunate symptoms of malnutrition: acne, discoloration, stunted bone growth, saggy skin, and more. Deficiencies can also cause some mental disorders like depression or anxiety, which can greatly affect your energy and how you appear to people. 

Many of the proteins and nutrients that have anti-aging properties are found in animal products.

In order to keep the healthy glow that’s necessary to look vibrant and youthful, let’s take a look at some of the essential nutrients that are important to supplement with when eating a raw vegan diet. 

The Anti-Aging Nutrients Found in Animal Products

Collagen

"Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look," says dermatologist Dr. Ohara Aivaz

This is because collagen is a protein that plays a role in keeping the skin tight and firm. And that's not all – collagen is also one of the main building blocks for your bones, nails, hair, ligaments, and muscles. Without collagen to maintain the structure of your skin and hair, you may end up looking a little bit older than your actual age. And as we get older, our collagen naturally depletes and the skin loses elasticity. Some of the best sources of collagen are bone broth, meat, and supplements. Keep in mind that vegan collagen doesn’t exist.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA and DHA) is incredibly important if you’re not getting enough from your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning that your body can’t make them by itself. Luckily, they’re easily found in many foods like fish and other seafood. 

Being deficient in omega-3s greatly increases your odds of looking older. Not getting sufficient EPA and DHA can lead to brittle hair, dry eyes, skin irritation, and thin nails. Omega-3s play a huge role in the function of the cell membrane and cell growth, muscle activity, and reduce inflammation. They may also improve hair growth.

Not getting sufficient EPA and DHA can lead to brittle hair, dry eyes, skin irritation, and thin nails. 

"These fatty acids are responsible for the health of the cell membrane, which is not only what acts as the barrier to things that are harmful, but also the passageway for nutrients to cross in and out and for waste products to get in and out of the cell," says Ann Yelmokas McDermott, Ph.D., a nutritionist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

McDermott goes on to say that “since the membrane is what influences the cell’s ability to hold water, having a nice, healthy barrier yields moister, softer, more subtle, and more wrinkle-free skin.”

There are also studies of omega-3 fatty acids showing their ability to protect the skin from sun damage and slow down the biological process of aging. Sounds great, right? So try incorporating more seafood into your diet if you want to retain a healthy appearance! 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A can’t be made by the body, and the easiest way to supplement it is through animal sources like liver, eggs, fish, and cheese. This vitamin is important for improving eyesight, immunity, reproduction, and cell growth. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that can reverse signs of aging

But, luckily for vegans, synthetic vitamin A can be used topically for wrinkles and fine lines. Chances are you’ve heard of the words retinol, Retin-A, and retinoid when searching for anti-aging products. It might be confusing since they all sound similar, so let’s go over each of them real quick. Retinoid refers to a class of medications derived from Vitamin A; retinol and Retin-A are both two different types of retinoids. Retinol is the natural form of vitamin A, while Retin-A is actually tretinoin, a prescribed substance usually in the form of a gel or cream. Using retinol and Retin-A reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles on your skin by increasing the production of collagen. 

Vitamin D3

If you think you can get all the vitamin D you need from the sun alone, think again. Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is found in animal-based foods. In seasons and locations where sun exposure is limited, attaining D3 through meat sources is a great way to reduce inflammation, strengthen bones and muscles, and boost your immunity. 

Vegans can get vitamin D2 which is found in some plants, but D3 is more potent.

Vegans can get vitamin D2 which is found in some plants, but D3 raises your vitamin D levels more than D2. If your vitamin D levels are too low, you could face hair loss and depression. There is also a correlation between menstrual disorders and low vitamin D.

Iron

Iron is very important as it helps to transport oxygen throughout the entire body. Iron also maintains skin, cells, hair, and nails. An iron deficiency can result in damaged hair, pale skin, and brittle nails. Heme iron-rich sources are mostly found in meat and eggs. Studies found that vegetarians had a higher prevalence of depleted iron stores compared to nonvegetarians, so supplementing with iron if you’re avoiding meat is greatly encouraged, especially if you want to retain some color! 

Vitamin B12

Vegans are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency since it’s mostly in animal products like salmon, liver, eggs, beef, and milk. It’s essential for keeping your blood and nerve cells healthy. It improves cell production which can heal many skin issues and reduce inflammation. 

Vitamin B12 can heal many skin issues and reduce inflammation. 

But there’s another bonus to supplementing with B12 – as it turns out, it’s actually beneficial in protecting the aging brain. Researchers found that patients who had parts of their brain damaged by Alzheimer's were protected by vitamin B12 supplementation when they were deficient. So not only can B12 help make your skin appear healthier, but it can help you feel younger by protecting your brain from the mental disorders commonly seen in the elderly. 

Zinc

Zinc improves your immune system, metabolism, and your senses. It’s mostly found in animal sources like oysters, chicken, red meat, and eggs. But because the bioavailability of zinc is much lower in vegan and vegetarian diets, non-meat eaters may find themselves deficient. Some of the symptoms of deficiencies that could affect the way you look are hair thinning, skin and eye lesions, poor wound healing, and weight loss.

Closing Thoughts 

Completely cutting out animal products may not be so helpful in keeping you young and healthy. The lack of fats, vitamins, and proteins which can only be found naturally in animal sources could cause many physical symptoms that can significantly age you. One of the best anti-aging secrets is to optimize your health to appear energetic and lively.

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