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Fighting hard to retain youthfulness and prevent signs of premature ageing? An extract from the maple tree leaves may help prevent wrinkles, suggests a study.

Maple trees are best known for their maple syrup and lovely fall foliage. But it turns out that the beauty of those leaves could be skin-deep, the researchers said.

The findings showed that extracts from summer or fall red maple leaves formulated into a powder could be incorporated in skincare products to prevent wrinkles.

"You could imagine that these extracts might tighten up human skin like a plant-based Botox, though they would be a topical application, not an injected toxin," said Navindra P. Seeram, principal investigator from the University of Rhode Island in the US.

Skin elasticity is maintained by proteins such as elastin. Wrinkles form when the enzyme elastase breaks down elastin in the skin as part of the ageing process. 

"We wanted to see whether leaf extracts from red maple trees could block the activity of elastase," said Hang Ma from the varsity.

The researchers zeroed in on phenolic compounds in the leaves known as glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs) and examined each compound's ability to inhibit elastase activity in a test tube. 

They found that GCGs containing multiple galloyl groups (a type of phenolic group) were more effective than those with a single galloyl group. 

But these compounds can do more than interfere with elastase. In a previous study, Seeram had shown that these same GCGs might be able to protect skin from inflammation and lighten dark spots, such as unwanted freckles or age spots.

And the fact that the extracts are derived from trees would be appreciated by consumers who are looking for natural, plant-based ingredients in their skincare products, the researchers said.

The results were presented at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).


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