Inside job: Nutricosmetics help body fight aging from within

January 1, 2009

Today, many consumers are choosing to fight aging from the inside by using nutricosmetics, such as drinks, supplements and foods that claim to slow the visible signs of aging. But some precautions are in order, according to one expert.

Keypoints:

Miami - A cosmetic medicine expert suggests that nutricosmetics could well be the next big boom in the anti-aging industry.

Not surprisingly, baby boomers are driving the market for these available products, says Leslie Baumann, M.D., director of the Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute at the University of Miami, Miami.

While the term "nutricosmetic" is new, the awareness about what people put into their bodies and how it impacts aging dates back a half century to when Linus Pauling studied the benefits of vitamin C.

Marketing

Today, the packaging and marketing of enhanced beverages, such as Coca-Cola's Enviga, Anheuser-Busch's Borba water and Snapple's antioxidant flavored water, appeal to men and women of all ages who are interested in drinking their way to better health.

Similarly, supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D and coenzyme Q10 are enticing people in the natural movement who want to look and feel better to get on board.

At the University of Miami's Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute, Dr. Baumann and her team are performing increasing numbers of trials on supplements, drinks and foods to see how they impact skin appearance. But showing how supplements play a role in acne and dry skin is different than showing how they slow aging, Dr. Baumann says.

Lack of data

"It's very difficult, if not impossible, to do a good clinical trial to show that these products actually prevent aging," she says. "With acne or wrinkles, for example, you can compare 'before' and 'after' photos. But with aging prevention, that's harder to prove."

Still, scientists have learned that nutricosmetics do play some role in the prevention of aging.

"Green tea is probably the most studied of all of these. And even with green tea, there's some conflicting data about its efficacy," Dr. Baumann says. "Everything we know about these products is based on artificial laboratory settings."

Drug interactions

It is important for physicians and consumers of these products to understand how nutricosmetics might adversely interact with other supplements or prescription medications.

"Dermatologists should always ask their patients what supplements and medications they are taking, to make sure they won't have a problem," Dr. Baumann says.

Also, patients using topical treatments for aging prevention will benefit from adding nutricosmetics to their daily regimen as well.

In a market where product choices abound, deciding which nutricosmetics are best and which to avoid can be tricky. Dr. Baumann suggests that dermatologists keep their eyes and ears open for greater scientific evidence about these products.

"I think that it's going to be increasingly common for dermatologists to sell these products in their office, just like we're already selling skincare products," she says.

Disclosures: Dr. Baumann reports no relevant financial disclosures.