(NaturalNews) Data is mounting that phytochemicals found in a host of berries and other fruits can enhance health from the inside. Now comes research just presented at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting being held in New Orleans that a specific type of antioxidant phytochemical called ellagic acid holds the promise of enhancing our bodies on the outside, too. In fact, it may hold the key to successfully slowing down or even stopping skin aging.
Researchers in the laboratory of Dr. Young-Hee Kang at Hallym University in the Republic of Korea have found topical application of ellagic acid markedly prevents the two major causes of wrinkles and aged-looking skin -- the destruction of collagen and inflammation. Their findings are based on studies in human skin cells as well as on experiments with mice exposed to UV-B light that mimics the sun's skin-damaging ultraviolet radioactive rays.
Ellagic acid is found in many fruits, vegetables and nuts but it is especially abundant in raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and pomegranates. Previous studies have suggested it has a photoprotective effect on the skin so the Korean scientists decided to try to find out the exact mechanism. They discovered that in human skin cells, ellagic acid worked to protect against UV damage by blocking production of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), enzymes that break down collagen in damaged skin cells. It also reduced the expression of a molecule known as ICAM that is involved in inflammatory reactions.
For their animal study, the researchers used 12 hairless mice genetically bred to be used in dermatology studies because of the physiological similarities of their skin to that of human skin. For about two months, the rodents were exposed to increasing ultraviolet radiation, beginning at a level that would normally cause redness or sunburn and increasing to an amount that would have definitely caused damage to a person's skin. Half the mice were given topical applications of ellagic acid but the other half didn't receive the antioxidant skin coating.
The results? The mice exposed to UV radiation without the ellagic treatment developed wrinkles and thickening of the skin but the group that received a topical dose of ellagic acid showed reduced wrinkle formation. What's more, the ellagic acid tamed the inflammation response, kept collagen from degrading and prevented the skin from thickening. In a statement for media, the researchers concluded these results show that ellagic acid works to prevent wrinkle formation and photo-aging caused by UV destruction of collagen and inflammation.
There's more good news about ellagic acid, too. Scientists from the University of Louisville and Fox Chase Cancer Center published research recently in the International Journal of Molecular Science which strongly suggests ellagic acid can reduce damage to DNA and, in fact, may help repair faulty DNA.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.