Oats - the natural next step in anti-aging?

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beta glucan, Beta-glucan, Skin

Beta glucan, an oat-derived fibre, can penetrate the skin and
smooth out wrinkles, indicates a new study that confounds previous
scientific thought and sets up the ingredient as a new natural tool
to suppress the outward signs of aging.

The break-through could have a big impact on skin care, since it sits comfortably at the point of convergence between two important trends: anti-aging and natural products. As the baby boom generation enters its senior years and has the inclination and money to spend on maintaining youthful looks and keeping in good shape, anti-aging has become a boom business. Preoccupation with ageing has even filtered down to younger individuals, with products such as Estee Lauder's Future Perfect aimed at women starting to notice their first wrinkles. According to a report published this summer by Freedonia Group, the US market for anti-aging products is set for an annual 8.7 per cent increase, which should give the category a total value of $30.7 billion by 2009, compared to an estimated value of $20.2 billion in 2004. A new report from Euromonitor predicts that the inclination towards healthier lifestyles will lead to similar growth in natural/organic skin care, hair care and colour cosmetics markets. Beta-glucan, a soluble fiber derived from the cell walls of oat kernels, is most commonly used in food applications. Studies have indicated that, when ingested, it can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and glycemic response. It does also have a history of use in topical applications, to provide relief from minor skin irritations, improve the appearance of skin and help wound healing. But because scientists have long believed that the molecule, which has an average weight of 1 106 Da, is too large to penetrate the skin, until now it has been intended simply as a film-forming moisturizer and an aid to wound-healing. Researchers from Symrise and Ceapro, a University of Alberta spin-off company, embarked on what is claimed to be the first ex vivo and in vivo investigation of the physiological effects of beta-glucan to discover whether it really is the case that beta glucan cannot penetrate the skin, and to evaluate its ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. The first part of the study, published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science (vol. 27; issue 5; p 292), involved a single application of 5mg of 0.5 percent beta glucan per cm2 of abdominal skin. The beta-glucan contained a dye, so that its progress through the skin could be measured. The researchers found that it did, indeed penetrate the skin - a process described by author Dr Mark Redmond, president and CEO of Ceapro, as being similar to the way water penetrates a brick wall. "It does not go through the brick, it goes through the concrete binding the bricks together," he said. "As a result of our study, we now know that glucan works through the inter-cellular lipid matrix, or the cells' cement, to enter the lower levels of the skin." Next, a clinical study group of 27 subjects applied beta-glucan to fine lines and wrinkles on their faces over an eight-week period. Using digital image analysis of silicone replicas, they determined that there was a significant reduction of wrinkle depth and height, and that the skin was less rough. Redmond said that consumers may expect to see results in as little as ten days. His conclusion is that there is evidence to support the use of oat beta-glucan in the "care and maintenance of healthy skin and the cosmetic treatment of the signs of aging". The findings mean that beta glucan could have a role as a non-invasive alternative to Botox, the popular treatment to smooth out wrinkles by injecting botchulism into the muscle. It is believed that some parties already have R&D underway in this area. More than being useful solely in cosmetics settings, however, beta glucan gains practical, medical credence from the study, which supports its use to promote wound healing and reduce scaring after surgical procedures. It could also be used as a system for delivering medicines like antihistamines and pain-killers directly into the skin. External links to companies or organisations mentioned in thisstory: Ceapro The Freedonia Group Euromonitor International

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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