Ceramides Nourish Skin From Within
By Emily Perdue
When we are young, our bodies manufacture ample ceramide molecules to keep our skin healthy.1-3
These ceramides are a major component of our skin's surface. They protect against moisture loss to keep skin youthful and supple.4 Functionally, ceramides support the skin's matrix, keeping it firm.2,4
However, with age, ceramide production declines, and skin begins to sag and wrinkle.3
Scientists have found a way to extract ceramides from whole grain wheat that allows aging humans to nourish their skin's structure from within. Research has shown that ceramides derived from wheat inhibit the elastase enzymes that destroy the skin's elastin, which results in loss of flexibility and increased wrinkling.5 Natural ceramides provide continuous maintenance for skin and allow it to sustain its healthy protective function and vital moisture.
This article will examine the laboratory data on whole wheat-derived ceramides for restoring structure to human skin. Impressive clinical data show how supplementing with these ceramides produces smoother, more youthful skin free of the itching and flaking that is so common with age.2,3,6
Ceramides Preserve Youthful Skin
Aging causes a loss of ceramides naturally found in the skin. The result is thinning of the skin's outer layer that weakens the skin's moisture-retention properties.4
The obvious solution is to replace those ceramides.
But what is the best way to do so?
Laboratory research reveals some improvement to skin's moisture barrier function when lipids, including ceramides are applied directly to skin.4,7 But this topical approach can't match nature's steady supply of ceramides from the inside.
On the other hand, very promising studies show that ceramides, taken as a food supplement, can significantly improve skin moisture levels and reduce the discomfort of dry, aging skin.
Until 1997, ceramides for internal use were derived only from animal sources, chiefly from cows.4 Researchers have discovered a number of plant-based ceramides that are available from grains such as rice, corn, and wheat.4
A little over a decade ago a French company decided to explore the potential of wheat-derived ceramides for use as a skin moisturizer that could be taken orally. This would allow the ceramides to reach the skin's outer layer in a natural fashion, being delivered by the bloodstream and gently nudged into the extracellular matrix, where they would restore the healthy moisture barrier function of the skin.4
That same company went on to develop the first ceramide-rich extract of wheat. They used exclusively whole-grain, non-genetically modified wheat as the raw material.4,8 The new wheat extract contains purified oils, and has been tested to prove that it has no gluten or other allergy-provoking components.4
The product was an instantaneous hit in Japan, where since 1997 it has been used in many popular "beauty drinks" and nutritional supplements.4 A number of interrelated studies have now validated that healthy consumer response.4-6
Several early laboratory studies demonstrated that a powdered form of the wheat extract, which is equally potent as the oil form, could hydrate and restore youthful structure to human skin after being subjected to disruption of its protective barrier function.5 In addition, this study found a substantial reduction in free radicals in the skin, and showed that the wheat extract could inhibit the elastase enzymes that ordinarily would destroy elastin and contribute to loss of flexibility and increased wrinkling.5
Human Clinical Trials
Clinical studies with the wheat ceramide extract began in 2005, after an encouraging pilot study.6 Women with dry to very dry skin received either a placebo or 200 mg/day of a powdered form of the wheat ceramide extract; treatment continued for 3 months.
There was a significant improvement in skin hydration as evaluated three ways, by a machine, by a dermatologist's examination, and by the patients' own subjective scores.6 Furthermore, women in the wheat extract group, but not the placebo group, experienced a significant reduction in dry patches, roughness, and itching. These effects are exactly what one would expect as the ceramides made their way through the bloodstream to the skin.
A second, larger study was then done to evaluate the wheat ceramide extract in its oil form.
In that study, women with dry to very dry skin took 350 mg of the wheat ceramide oil, or a placebo, daily for three months, in a randomized, double-blind fashion.4 Again, a series of different measures was used to determine the impact of the supplement.
Skin hydration was objectively measured by a technique called "corneometry."4 By this measure, the supplement (but not the placebo) significantly increased skin hydration of the arms, legs, and overall, with the greatest impact on the arms, where skin hydration had increased by more than 35%, compared to less than 1% in the placebo group.4
Subjects also rated their own perceptions of the effects of the treatment (supplement or placebo). At all measurement points in the study, the wheat extract scored better on the following measures: roughness, uniformity of complexion, facial skin hydration, leg skin hydration, suppleness, itchiness, and overall state of the skin.4
No significant adverse effects or side effects were reported, and the supplement proved slightly superior to the placebo in terms of acceptability.4
This study was a compelling demonstration of the power of a whole-grain wheat ceramide supplement to improve many of the essential features of the skin's barrier function, features that are typically lost to aging and environmental exposure. Simply put, women who supplemented with this product experienced measurable improvements in "beauty from within."
The centuries-long quest for "beauty from within" is now a reality, thanks to oral supplements derived from the whole wheat grain. A wheat-derived supplement rich in ceramides, which form 35 to 40% of the "cement" in skin's outermost layer can restore moisture and reduce dry, flaky, itchy skin.
Ceramides and other rare lipids are natural constituents of the wheat grain. By taking these compounds internally, skin can be nourished naturally, delivering ceramides directly to skin through the bloodstream, where they are taken up and deposited into the barrier layer, or stratum corneum.
Boosting your skin's ceramide levels can bring back its natural moisture levels yielding a healthy and youthful complexion — from the inside out! •
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
1. Saint Leger D, Francois AM, Leveque JL, Stoudemayer TJ, Grove GL, Kligman AM. Age-associated changes in stratum corneum lipids and their relation to dryness. Dermatologica. 1988;177(3): 159-64.
2. Rogers J, Harding C, Mayo A, Banks J, Rawlings A. Stratum corneum lipids: the effect of ageing and the seasons. Arch Dermatol Res. 1996 Nov;288(12):765-70.
3. Hashizume H. Skin aging and dry skin. J Dermatol. 2004 Aug;31(8):603-9.
4. Guillou S, Ghabri S, Jannot C, Gaillard E, Lamour I, Boisnic S. The moisturizing effect of a wheat extract food supplement on women's skin: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Apr;33(2):138-43.
5. Boisnic S, Beranger JY, Branchet MC. Cutaneous Hydration Evaluation After a Vegetal Ceramide-Based Cream Application on Normal Human Skin Tissue Model Maintained Alive, Submitted to a Dehydration Model HITEX;2003.
6. Boisnic S. Clinical Evaluation of a Hydrating Food Supplement: Double blind randomized study versus placebo: HITEX;2005.
7. Yilmaz E, Borchert HH. Effect of lipid-containing, positively charged nanoemulsions on skin hydration, elasticity and erythema—an in vivo study. Int J Pharm. 2006 Jan 13;307(2):232-8.
8. Whitaker DK, Cilliers J, de Beer C. Evening primrose oil (Epogam) in the treatment of chronic hand dermatitis: disappointing therapeutic results. Dermatology. 1996;193(2):115-20.
9. Available at: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/stratum+corneum. Accessed October 18, 2012.
10. Bouwstra JA, Ponec M. The skin barrier in healthy and diseased state. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Dec;1758(12):2080-95. Epub 2006 Jul 11.
11. Weinstein GD, McCullough JL, Ross P. Cell proliferation in normal epidermis. J Invest Dermatol. 1984 Jun;82(6):623-8.
12. Nilsson A, Duan RD. Absorption and lipoprotein transport of sphingomyelin. J Lipid Res. 2006 Jan;47(1):154-71.
13. Grove GL, Kligman AM. Age-associated changes in human epidermal cell renewal. J Gerontol. 1983 Mar;38(2):137-42.
14. Barco D, Gimenez-Arnau A. Xerosis: a dysfunction of the epidermal barrier. Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2008 Nov;99(9):671-82.
15. Mastaloudis A, Wood SM. Age-related changes in cellular protection, purification, and inflammation-related gene expression: role of dietary phytonutrients. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Jul;1259: 112-20.
16. Robert L, Jacob MP, Frances C, Godeau G, Hornebeck W. Interaction between elastin and elastases and its role in the aging of the arterial wall, skin and other connective tissues. A review. Mech Ageing Dev. 1984 Dec;28(2-3):155-66.
17. Scharffetter-Kochanek K, Brenneisen P, Wenk J, et al. Photoaging of the skin from phenotype to mechanisms. Exp Gerontol. 2000 May;35(3):307-16.
18. Pillai S, Oresajo C, Hayward J. Ultraviolet radiation and skin aging: roles of reactive oxygen species, inflammation and protease activation, and strategies for prevention of inflammation-induced matrix degradation - a review. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2005 Feb;27(1):17-34.
19. Liebel F, Kaur S, Ruvolo E, Kollias N, Southall MD. Irradiation of skin with visible light induces reactive oxygen species and matrix-degrading enzymes. J Invest Dermatol. 2012 Jul;132(7): 1901-7.
20. Sela BA. Dermatological manifestations of smoking. Harefuah. 2002 Aug;141(8):736-40, 60.
21. Imokawa G. Recent advances in characterizing biological mechanisms underlying UV-induced wrinkles: a pivotal role of fibrobrast-derived elastase. Arch Dermatol Res. 2008 Apr;300 Suppl 1:S7-20.
22. Imokawa G. Mechanism of UVB-induced wrinkling of the skin: paracrine cytokine linkage between keratinocytes and fibroblasts leading to the stimulation of elastase. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2009 Aug;14(1):36-43.