Healthy Fats for Cells and Skin

Foods to give a glow


The fat-free diet was extremely popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly for those attempting to lose excess body fat or to improve overall health. This regiment entailed ingesting little to no fat and consuming mostly protein and carbohydrates. The plan was not successful for fat loss and heart disease rose in the study.  Yet today, more than 40 years later, many are still reluctant to add fat to their diet in fear of weight gain.

The Keto plan has provided evidence for improved health, especially brain function. However, there is much information and confusion about the role fats play in the health of the skin. In this article, we explore the important role of fats for optimal cellular function, for skin barrier, collagen production, and information about good fats and inflammatory fats.

Inform your clients about the important role fats play at the cellular level. The education you provide to your clients is key to retention, referrals, and client loyalty.

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The Role of Fats at the Cellular Level

Our cells are protected by a membrane made up of three types of lipids (fats). These lipids are phospholipids, cholesterol, and glycolipids.  Phospholipids are the major component of the membrane. They can be broken down and used for energy or split into smaller molecules to help regulate activities in the cell. Additionally, phospholipids are found in the lungs and in joints, where they help lubricate cells. Cholesterol is the gatekeeper and protector of the cell and synthesized by the liver. A glycolipid is a carbohydrate attached to a lipid. Glycolipids help with cell-to-cell interactions, provide stability in the membrane, and assist in building a strong immune system.

The membrane protects the inside and outside of the cell. It regulates anything wanting to enter and exit the cell, such as nutrients or toxins. Understanding the structure of the cell membrane provides the basis for skin function.  

Fats and Skin Barrier

Fats referred as essential fatty acids (EFAs) must be obtained from foods because they cannot be synthesized in the body. There are two classes of EFAs, Omega-6 and Omega-3. Omega-6 is a Linoleic Acid (LA) and Omega 3 is considered an A-Linolenic Acid (ALA).  A diet rich in Omega-3s and Omega-6s provides flexibility to transport nutrients into your cells while eliminating waste.

EFAs play a major role in the skin’s barrier system. Ceramides are lipids found in the outermost layer of the skin, creating a water-impermeable, protective barrier. The skin barrier protects against excessive water loss, harsh chemicals, excessive radiation, and the entry of harmful or invasive microorganisms, viruses, and parasites.

If a client presents skin dryness, sagginess, loss of collagen, poor hair and nail growth, and low energy, adding EFAs to their diet would be a solution to improve the skin. During the symposium, “The Great Fat Debate: Is There Validity in the Age-Old Dietary Guidance?”​, four leading experts presented evidence suggesting that low fat diets may be less healthy than those containing at least a moderate amount of fat.  The skin encountered accelerated aging, loss of elastin, loss of collagen and a reduction of overall plumpness. Another study found that higher dietary intakes of LA were associated with a lower incidence of dry skin and skin thinning in healthy, middle-aged women.

What Are Good and Bad Fats?

Good sources of Omega-3 include oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. Fish has an abundance of EPA and DHA, (types of Omega-3) which reduce inflammation, especially in the heart, arteries, and brain. Other sources are flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, soybean, tofu, tempeh, walnuts, and dark green vegetables. Flaxseed has an abundance of ALA, which has been shown to reduce triglycerides and improve blood sugar control. Green, chlorophyll-rich foods contain Omega-3 in the chloroplasts.

Good sources of Omega-6 include nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and dairy. An abundance of Omega 6 comes from corn, soybean, safflower, canola, and sunflower seeds. These oils are considered good if they are not overly processed. Unfortunately, a chemical process is why an oil becomes inflammatory. Many corn, soybean and canola oils are used in fast and processed foods because of an inexpensive, chemical process. This process damages and strips the oils of their good qualities. If your client’s diet contains mainly fast foods, processed snacks, or restaurant foods, these chemically altered oils are most likely involved. This may be the root cause of their chronic inflammation.

The goal of eating healthy fats to promote optimally functioning cells and skin is to have a balance of Omega -3 and Omega-6, near a 1:1 ratio. Today, our average ratio is closer to 30:1 of processed inflammatory oils to natural Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils.

When treating clients for lack of collagen, dry, thin skin, or chronic inflammation, inquire about their eating habits. Educate your clients about consuming good oils versus the processed oils found in most fast foods. Additionally, inform your clients about the important role fats play at the cellular level.  The education you provide to your clients is key to retention, referrals, and client loyalty.