Skin Nutrition: 6 Skin Care Ingredients from Food and Vitamins - Life Extension Blog

Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N

Nature has provided us with everything we need to nourish our body, and scientists discover which nutrients are best for specific purposes.

We’ve done our research to find out exactly which nutrients have been researched and shown to work for common skin health concerns.

The good news is, there are ingredients found in skin care products that address exactly those concerns, and we’ve outlined them here for you. Common health goals for skin include skin hydration, suppleness, smoothness, even tone, and healthy cells.

Here are six ingredients that you will find in topical skin care products that are derived from food and vitamins and how they work.

#1 Oryza Rice Bran Ceramides

Ceramides are the major lipid constituents that provide the “barrier” property of the epidermis (the outer layer of cells on our skin). When ceramides from rice bran are applied topically, they form a barrier that helps the skin retain hydration! Nature is seriously amazing. Need additional support? Consider wheat-derived ceramide oils in a convenient oral supplement, which is designed to support dermal elasticity, proper hydration, and lasting comfort. P.S., you may see ceramides referred to as “phytoceramides”. The prefix “Phyto-“ just means that it is derived from a plant (such as rice or wheat).

#2 Beta-Glucan

You may have seen those videos on how to make your own face mask with oatmeal, right? Well the science behind the use of oats on the skin tells us that it is because of nutrients found in oats called beta-glucans. Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber found commonly in the bran of cereal grains, the cell wall of baker’s yeast, oats and mushrooms. When applied topically, beta-glucans have been shown to lock in skin moisture. They stimulate fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) to produce procollagen and collagen by aiding in the release of certain transcription factors such as nuclear factor-1 (NF-1).

#3 Vitamin C

Most people commonly associate vitamin C with citrus and immune health. When applied topically, vitamin C has been shown to support skin hydration, smoothness, tone, and collagen production.

#4 Vitamin E

If you have ever gotten more than your recommended daily 15-30 minutes of sun exposure, chances are that your skin cells experienced some damage. This is where vitamin E comes in handy! When applied topically, vitamin E has been shown to support a healthy cellular response to ultraviolet rays and safeguard from oxidation.

#5 Raspberry Extract

Raspberries talk to our genes? Who knew! Well, scientists know. Raspberry extract has been shown to support genes responsible for skin hydration such as hyaluronic acid synthase and aquaporin 3. Speaking of hyaluronic acid, this ingredient is another rock star to include in your skin care regimen.

#6 Green Tea

Green tea does wonders for brain health (and much more) internally, and it can do stellar work for our bodies when used topically. Green tea helps to maintain collagen levels and supports healthy skin immune function.

So, there you have it. You can eat your health foods and put them on your skin, too! What are some of your favorite natural skin care remedies? Leave us a comment and let us know.



Glutathione: How to Boost Your Levels of this Critical Antioxidant - Life Extension Blog

Stewart Lonky, M.D.

Have you ever heard of glutathione? If not, I’d suggest you educate yourself on this important antioxidant. This natural antioxidant is protective from damage and regulates many important functions, including cell proliferation and apoptosis (death). It is, in fact, our cells’ most abundant antioxidant. Glutathione also assists in the synthesis of genetic material and proteins and activates gene expression.

While glutathione is obviously needed for many vital life functions, there are few ways to accurately measure intra-cellular glutathione levels. Baylor University College of Medicine researchers recently developed a fluorescent probe—called the RealThiolthat measures real-time changes in glutathione concentration in living cells, giving scientists another window to investigate the antioxidant’s role in aging, health and diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, among others.

But can we do anything in the interim while we wait for this new technology to become widely available? How can we maintain healthy levels of this critical antioxidant, the principal compound for detoxifying environmental stresses, air pollutants, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and many other toxic insults, but which also declines with age, setting the stage for any number of age-related health problems?

Supporting Glutathione Production

Turns out a new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Redox Biology, may yield some answers. It seems a compound called N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC)—an altered form of the amino acid cysteine used in supplements—can help increase glutathione levels. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and our bodies convert NAC to cysteine, and then to glutathione.

N-acetyl cysteine has dozens of medical applications. It’s used, among other things, to counteract acetaminophen (Tylenol) and CO2 poisoning, to treat chest pain and bile duct blockage in infants, and as therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s currently used in cases of emergency medical detoxification such as the ingestion of toxic levels of heavy metals. The researchers found that at much lower levels, NAC might help maintain glutathione levels, preventing any number of age-associated metabolic declines. The study findings shed some insights into why animal health declines with age, but specifically points to a compound—NAC—that might help prevent some of the toxic processes involved.

It’s the decline of these detoxification pathways that might trigger cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, among many others. The study helped highlight how cells from younger animals are far more resistant to stress than those from older animals. In young animal cells, stress doesn't cause such a quick glutathione loss. Older animal cells subjected to stress, on the other hand, quickly lost glutathione and died twice as fast. Turns out that pre-treatment with NAC increased glutathione levels in the older cells, largely offsetting stress’ effects.

In this study, scientists tried to identify the resistance the young cells’ toxin resistance, compared to those of older cells. Under stress, the younger cells lost significantly less of their glutathione than did older cells, never dropping to below 35 percent of their initial level, whereas in older cells, glutathione levels plummeted to 10 percent of their original level.

NAC, the researchers said, can boost glutathione’s metabolic function and increase its rate of synthesis. NAC is considered safe, even at extremely high levels, explaining why a low dose might be helpful for maintaining glutathione levels and improving health.

Food Sources of Cysteine

The next obvious question, of course, is how can we safely add NAC to our daily regimen? Though NAC is not found naturally in food sources, cysteine, along with the other ten essential amino acids, is present in most high protein foods. However, it requires the essential amino acid methionine to facilitate the conversion to NAC, explaining why cysteine is considered an essential amino acid as well. Pork, chicken, sausage, turkey, duck, fish, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and eggs all contain cysteine. Granola, oat flakes, broccoli, red pepper and onion are significant, meatless cysteine sources, along with garlic, soy beans, linseed and wheat germ.

If you don’t feel you’re getting enough dietary cysteine, NAC is available in supplement form. There is also some data showing that mixtures of various herbs, such as Ashwagandha, Bucopa, milk thistle, green tea, and curcumin can "induce” glutathione production. Remember, it’s always a good idea to first consult with a qualified healthcare professional! Anything powerful enough to heal is also powerful enough to harm. Too much cysteine and methionine can cause health problems. A 2009 Temple University study found an association between methionine levels and Alzheimer’s disease in animal models. NAC may also raise another amino acid associated with heart disease.

The Bottom Line

The study findings are a welcome development. Overall, taking glutathione or its precursors like NAC in reasonable amounts appears to be quite safe. I’m optimistic there could be a major role for NAC in preventive medicine as well, where it’s used as a prophylactic instead of an intervention to increase glutathione levels and prevent the increased toxicity we all face with aging.

About: Stewart Lonky, M.D., is a physician, toxicologist, and biomedical engineer. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonology and critical care medicine, and a recognized expert in the related fields of preventive medicine and environmental toxicology and its associated diseases. Dr. Lonky is known for his cutting edge research into the causes, treatment and prevention of toxic chemical exposures and heralded for his in-depth knowledge of obesity's biological, environmental, and social influences, which is the subject of his forthcoming book. Dr. Lonky resides and practices in Los Angeles, California.

Tips to Improve Air Quality for Lung Health

Anna Suarez

Lung health and air quality are directly linked. Environmental contaminants can come from a variety of sources, including automobiles and heavy industry. Paying attention to the quality of the air at home and work can be a great way to protect long-term health!

How Does Air Quality Affect Health?

The air we breathe can contain vast quantities of particles and chemicals that are often microscopic. While it’s easy to see certain contaminants like smoke emitted from a tailpipe or a chimney, other sources of pollution can be harder to identify. Air pollution includes a variety of chemicals, including particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds. Each can cause health problems relating to the lungs and even other organs. Asthma, heart attacks, stroke, and other respiratory complaints can be the result of exposure to pollution. And to put these risks in perspective, the World Health Organization estimates that each year air pollution claims 7 million lives worldwide.

Air pollution is also a major concern when you are indoors. The average person will spend 90% of their time in enclosed spaces like cars and more often buildings, which means that occupants will have prolonged exposure to any pollutants that may be present. The impact that a particular pollutant has is primarily based on its concentration in the air, and the length of time that a person was exposed to that air. These pollutants can encompass allergens like pollen, unpleasant odors, and mold spores, but can also include dangerous toxins such as asbestos fibers and lead dust. Any of these particulates can be swept into the air by human activity or circulated through a building’s HVAC system.

What are Some Ways to Improve Air Quality?

There are many strategies that can be employed to decrease the risks to human health. One of the first things that should be done to mitigate indoor air concerns is to remove the source of the pollution. This means removing any toxic materials, even those that may be part of the building itself. Some materials that were once common in construction are now known hazards. This could include materials like asbestos and lead that should only be handled by certified professionals due to the consequences that these materials can have on human health. Asbestos, for example, is a lesser-known cause of lung cancer, which is the most common form of cancer worldwide when both men and women are considered. Additionally, asbestos exposure can result in a very rare cancer that forms in the linings around various organs and has a shockingly low life expectancy of less than two years on average. Utilizing abatement professionals helps diminish these health risks and ensures that striving for safer indoor environments doesn’t cause additional harm.

In addition to removal, improving ventilation is another way to reduce the health impact of pollutants. Introducing outdoor air, which can actually be cleaner than indoor air, can help reduce the concentration of the pollutants and degree of exposure for occupants. This can be achieved by upgrading a building’s HVAC system, or even by opening windows and taking advantage of natural ventilation methods (e.g. wind).

Protecting lung health is a multifaceted issue that goes far beyond eliminating the use of tobacco products or even proper exercise. Environmental factors that occur at a large scale have a direct impact on individual health. The quality of the air around us is one factor that requires solutions at a societal scale. And even though we may not always notice, air quality is constantly influencing public health.

About: Anna Suarez is a health advocate working to raise awareness about the intersection of the environment and health.


  1. World Health Organization. 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution.
  2. Klepeis et al. 2001. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants.
  3. World Cancer Research Fund International. Worldwide Data.
  4. Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center. Mesothelioma Life Expectancy.
  5. Environmental Protection Agency. The Inside Story: a guide to indoor air quality.

Does Vitamin C Really Help with Colds? - Life Extension Blog

In 1970, “Vitamin C and the Common Cold,” by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, Ph.D., was
published. The book’s premise—that consuming high amounts of vitamin C could reduce cold severity and duration—was widely embraced by the public, despite the opposition of some scientists and physicians. Vitamin C began to replace chicken soup as the treatment du jour for colds and influenza and is still used for this purpose more than four decades later.

About Linus Pauling

Dr. Pauling, who has been ranked among the 20 top scientists in history, was one of just four individuals who received more than one Nobel Prize and the only one to have received two unshared prizes. He studied physics under such luminaries as Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrödinger, and was a close friend of Robert Oppenheimer. Francis Crick called Linus Pauling “the father of molecular biology.”

Dr. Pauling was the originator of the term “orthomolecular medicine,” meaning “right molecule,” which refers to providing the body with substances normally found there to treat disease. His endeavors in this area, and his advocacy of nutritional supplements, remain controversial. Dr. Pauling suggested that flawed genetics may be behind a number of diseases. His support of nutritional supplements extended to the use of intravenous vitamin C as a cancer therapy, a treatment that has of late been associated with positive reports.

A Historical Look at Vitamin C Research

A number of studies have resulted in positive findings for a protective effect of vitamin C against cold incidence, duration or symptoms. One early large scale trial, reported in 1972 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found a significantly greater number of vitamin C-treated subjects who remained free of colds throughout the course of the trial in comparison with those who received a placebo.1 Those who received vitamin C had approximately 30% fewer total days of disability compared to the placebo group, and a decrease in symptoms during the course of the trial. A subsequent trial found superiority for 8 grams vitamin C given on the first day of illness in comparison with 4 grams.2 This was followed by a randomized trial that revealed a 25% decrease in days of confinement due to illness among subjects who received vitamin C compared with a placebo over a 15 week period.3

In 1974, Pauling authored a review published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was critical of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C. 4 Emphasizing the antiviral and antibacterial activity of the vitamin, he suggested that optimum intake for humans may be as high as 5,000 mg per day and remarked that the RDA at that time was adequate only to prevent scurvy. In another review, W. W. Rosser, M.D., noted that the vitamin C level of white blood cells declines dramatically during the first day of an upper respiratory infection and remains at that level for three days; however, 6 grams of vitamin C consumed at the beginning of the infection prevents this from occurring.5 Dr. Rosser asserted that, while studies involving less than a gram of the vitamin were “unconvincing,” doses of 4-6 grams per day reduce cold symptoms.

“In 1971, Linus Pauling carried out a meta-analysis of four placebo-controlled trials and concluded that it was highly unlikely that the decrease in the ‘integrated morbidity of the common cold’ in vitamin C groups was caused by chance alone,” observed Dr. Harri Hemilä in a review published in 1996. “However, widespread conviction that the vitamin has no proven effects on the common cold still remains. Three of the most influential reviews drawing this conclusion are considered in the present article […] these three reviews are shown to contain serious inaccuracies and shortcomings, making them unreliable sources on the topic.”6

In another publication, Dr. Hemilä observed that, “Karlowski et al, found a 17% decrease in the duration of cold episodes in the group administered vitamin C (6 g/day); however, they suggested that the decrease was entirely due to the placebo effect. In this article it will be shown that the placebo effect is not a valid explanation for the results of the Karlowski study, as it is inconsistent with their results.”7

In the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Dr Hemilä and Z. S. Herman reviewed an analysis conducted by Thomas Chalmers who  concluded there was no evidence for a beneficial effect for vitamin C in the treatment of the common cold. “Chalmers did not consider the amount of vitamin C used in the studies and included in his meta-analysis was a study in which only 0.025-0.05 grams/day of vitamin C was administered to the test subjects,” they observe. “For some studies Chalmers used values that are inconsistent with the original published results . . . The current notion that vitamin C has no effect on the common cold seems to be based in large part on a faulty review written two decades ago.”8

In 2017, Dr Hemilä reported that 148 animal studies indicated that vitamin C may prevent or decrease the symptoms of infections caused by viruses and bacteria.9 Controlled trials have uncovered a significant dose-response for up to 6 to 8 grams per day of the vitamin, suggesting a reason for an apparent lack of benefit in some studies that examined lower doses. “Given the consistent effect of vitamin C on the duration of colds, and its safety and low cost, it would be worthwhile for individual common cold patients to test whether therapeutic 8 grams/day vitamin C is beneficial for them,” he suggests. “Self-dosing of vitamin C must be started as soon as possible after the onset of common cold symptoms to be most effective." 

The Bottom Line

Is vitamin C helpful against colds? While the outcome and interpretation of studies are still in conflict in regard to whether the vitamin, when regularly supplemented in low amounts, can help prevent colds, a significant body of evidence exists in favor of an ability to decrease cold duration and symptoms when consumed in higher than average doses. Since most people’s intake of vitamin C is less than optimal, it can’t hurt to supplement with a prudent daily amount and to keep it on hand in the event cold or flu strikes you or a loved one. Zinc is a promising contender in the battle to prevent a full-blown cold from occurring during the first signs of a cold and to shorten the duration of a cold. 10


  1. Anderson TW et al. Can Med Assoc J. 1972 Sep 23;107(6):503-8.
  2. Anderson TW et al. Can Med Assoc J. 1974 Jul 6;111(1):31-6.
  3. Anderson TW et al. Can Med Assoc J. 1975 Apr 5;112(7):823-6.
  4. Pauling L. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1974 Nov;71(11):4442-6.
  5. Rosser WW. Can Fam Physician. 1974 Oct;20(10):113-7.
  6. Hemilä H. Nutrition. 1996 Nov-Dec;12(11-12):804-9.
  7. Hemilä H. J Clin Epidemiol. 1996 Oct;49(10):1079-84; discussion 1085, 1087.
  8. Hemilä H et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 1995 Apr;14(2):116-23.
  9. Hemilä H. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 29;9(4). 
  10. Hemilä H. J Royal Soc Medicine 2017 May;8(5).

The Health Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet - Life Extension Blog

Holli Lapes RD, LD/N

FANS Recap Part 2 - Session Highlight: The Health Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

In July 2017, we attended the Annual Food and Nutrition Symposium (FANS), which is put forth by the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (FAND) and provides science-based, cutting-edge educational sessions presented by recognized experts in nutrition. We heard from more than 30 national and international speakers providing over 20 hours of continuing education. The continuing education units (CEUs) are a requirement for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN or RD) for national registration and state licensure.

In our previous blog post covering the conference, we highlighted “Dietary Patterns that can Prevent and Control Diabetes” by Osama Hamdy, M.D., Ph.D. In today’s blog post, we will highlight key points from the presentation by Angela Poff, Ph.D., discussing the therapeutic potential of ketosis.

How Do Ketones Work?

When there are periods of fasting and/or low circulating glucose levels, the body can use stored fat or dietary fat to make ketone bodies as an energy source. The brain is able to use ketones as an alternative source of energy but usually it prefers carbohydrates. The synthesis of ketones occurs mainly in the liver. The liver makes the ketones, but does not use them. Most fatty acids cannot cross the bloodbrain barrier. With evolution and periods of starvation, the human body was able to adapt by using ketones. Without ketone bodies, fatty acids, and an adequate amount of protein, muscle breakdown would occur because the body would pull amino acids from muscle protein.

How is Ketosis Induced?

A state of ketosis is induced by fasting, starvation, diabetes, or by following a ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, high in fat, and usually a bit higher in protein than the average diet. People who are on a ketogenic diet may use Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) or other exogenous ketone supplements or precursors.

Why Follow a Ketogenic Diet?

Following a ketogenic diet can be helpful for blood sugar regulation and weight loss. Interestingly, Angela pointed out, that consuming exogenous ketones in and of themselves (without following a ketogenic diet) could lower glucose & insulin and increase insulin sensitivity. Angela explained that ketones are considered a “cleaner” energy source, meaning, less free radical production by providing superior energy efficiency. When other energy sources are metabolized to yield energy and ATP, free radicals are also produced. Ketones can beneficially alter gene expression by activating antioxidant genes and suppressing oxidative stress. Some research has even shown promise for cancer treatment. Ketones have also been shown to enhance mitochondrial function and induce mitochondrial biogenesis.

Ketogenic Diet for Brain Health

One of the first uses of a ketogenic diet was for reducing seizures resulting from epilepsy and other disorders. Now, research has shown that ketones can be helpful for a variety of neurological conditions. There has been some intriguing research on why a ketogenic diet should be followed in those with a brain tumor. Ketosis can influence Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is associated with learning and memory. Ketones such as MCT oil from coconut might be helpful as an alternative source of energy for Alzheimer’s patients, who have diminished glucose uptake to the brain, but more human studies are needed. A ketogenic diet has also shown promise for the management of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. For more information, visit The Charlie Foundation’s website for ketogenic therapy resources.

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