A new study from Australia suggests that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and unsaturated fats may ward off wrinkles by boosting the skin's natural defences against sun damage.

The findings of the international study on eating patterns and skin ageing are revealed in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (2001;20:71-80). Investigators found that dark- and fair-skinned people who ate plenty of wholesome foods but passed on butter, red meat and sugary confections were less prone to wrinkling. This effect was consistent whether or not you come from a sunny part of the world, proving that diet plays an important role in wrinkling of sun-exposed skin.

Researchers said skin-smoothing foods included green leafy vegetables, beans, olive oil, nuts and multigrain breads. Skin protecting foods are commonly rich in antioxidant vitamins like vitamins A, C and E and act against oxidative stress, which wrinkling is a sign of. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil may offer protection through the same mechanism.

Investigators studied the current diets of more than 400 adults aged 70 and older living in Australia, Greece and Sweden.