The study – published in PLoS ONE – investigated whether the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten affects skin colour. Led by Professor David Perrett of the University of St. Andrews, UK, the research team monitored the fruit and vegetable intake for 35 individuals over six weeks, finding that skin redness and yellowness increased with increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.
Changes in skin colour associated with increased fruit and vegetable consumption were also found to be correlated with higher levels of attractiveness, said the researchers who suggested that the skin tone changes could be perceived as reflecting improved health.
“In addition to a positive correlation between fruit and vegetable intake changes and skin yellowness changes, we find that when all measured skin areas are combined, an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption correlates with an increase in skin redness,” said the researchers.
“Such coloration is held to contribute beneficially to the appearance of health in human faces as is the case with skin yellowness,” they added.
The research was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and Unilever Research and Development USA. The authors noted that neither funder had a role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Carotenoids are yellow-red phytochemicals that are abundant in, and impart colour to, many fruit and vegetables. The pigments have also been suggested to be beneficial for health by offering protection against oxidative stress that could contribute to a variety of age-related degenerative processes, cardiovascular disease, and possibly some cancers.
“As antioxidants, carotenoids are important for skin health, serving a protective role by virtue of their relatively high concentration in all layers of this organ,” said Perrett and his team, who noted the presence of carotenoids in the skin also reduces ultraviolet light (UV) sensitivity.
Perrett and his colleagues conducted two studies to investigate the effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on skin-colour.
In the first experiment, the authors followed the fruit and vegetable intake of 35 participants over a six week study. The team found that fruit and vegetable consumption changes over a six-week period were “sufficient to confer measurable skin-colour changes over this interval.”
The second experiment investigated the level of skin-colour change required to improve the apparent healthiness and attractiveness of a person.
"Results from this study showed that the changes in skin tone associated with fruit and vegetable consumption are seen as ‘healthy and attractive’, and are detectable even at a relatively modest levels of dietary change," said Perrett and his team
Source: PLoS ONE
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032988
“You Are What You Eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes”
Authors: R.D. Whitehead, D. Re, D. Xiao, G. Ozakinci, D.I. Perrett