As Britain's spending on cosmetic surgery soars, Fiona
MacDonald Smith suggests it's time that we chopped and changed
our diet instead.
The latest anti-ageing food? Pigs' trotters. That's right, you
heard it here first. In New York, the most talked-about new
opening of the past couple of months has been a Japanese
restaurant called Hakata Tonton, where 33 out of the 39 dishes
contain pigs' feet.
The reason for this, according to its owner, Himi Okajima, is
that they are rich in collagen, the protein responsible for
skin and muscle tone, more recognisable to beauty addicts in
the form of face creams and fillers.
"Collagen helps your body retain moisture," says Okajima, who
has introduced a chain of restaurants specialising in collagen
cuisine in Japan. "Your hair and skin will look better, but
it's not just for looking beautiful now. If you begin eating
collagen in your thirties, you will look younger in your
Maybe this sounds a little improbable ("It's news to me,"
sniffs Lisa Miles of the British Nutrition Foundation. "I've
certainly never heard of eating collagen") but Okajima believes
he is on to something. Figures published last month show that
British spending on cosmetic surgery is the highest in Europe,
hitting nearly ?00 million in 2006, four times more than in
Isn't there a cheaper solution? Couldn't eating the right
foods, in the right way, be a simpler, and ultimately more
long-term way to stay looking and feeling younger? "You are
what you eat," says nutritional therapist Ian Marber, aka The
"You can't turn the clock back but you can slow things down.
Every cell replicates from RNA and DNA. In order to keep the
DNA in good condition, you want to protect cells from harmful
free radicals. And for this you need to eat fruit and
vegetables, which contain vital anti-oxidants like vitamins A,
C, E and zinc.
"It doesn't have to be expensive," he adds. "I know people go
on about so-called 'superfoods' which have a greater
concentration of anti-oxidants, but two apples a day will give
you plenty of vitamins and fibre. You just need to ensure a
"The key is to remember we're omnivorous," agrees nutritionist
Christian Lee, who is the national trainer for the Dr Nicholas
Perricone cosmetics and nutrition empire. "Have you ever
noticed how women age more rapidly than men?
That's because they don't eat enough protein. The days you
don't eat protein are the days you age. The body can't store
protein, but it needs it for cellular production and function.
"At each meal you should be able to hold up three fingers and
say 'I've got a good source of protein (lean fish or poultry,
nuts, seeds or tofu); an essential fatty acid (Omega 3 or 6, so
that's coldwater oily fish, flaxseeds, linseeds) and a low
glycaemic carbohydrate (fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains like
quinoa, buckwheat and oatmeal)'. If you can say that, you're on
the right road."
anti-ageing specialist with his "Three-Day Nutritional Face
Lift", which extolled the virtues of eating wild Alaskan salmon
twice a day, claiming its essential fatty acids would banish
puffiness and tighten the skin. Uma Thurman, Heidi Klum and
J-Lo are all fans.
In his new book Ageless Face, Ageless Mind, which has yet to
reach the UK, Dr Perricone's team assert that up to 40 per cent
of wrinkles are caused by dietary sugar.
"When you eat high glycaemic carbohydrates like bread, cakes
and pasta, they turn into sugar in the blood so fast that the
pancreas can't respond with enough insulin and the blood
becomes saturated with sugar," argues Christian Lee. "The sugar
needs to go somewhere so it attaches itself to the cell
When it does this to collagen molecules in the skin, it causes
the collagen to become stiff and immobile and that's the birth
of the wrinkle. The bad news is that it doesn't end there - the
sugar then pumps out free radicals, causing a double whammy of
The good news is you can prevent it - either by cutting out
sugar or by taking a supplement of alpha lipoic acid, which is
400 times stronger than vitamin C and E combined."