Nutrients to help protect us from the sun

by | June 15, 2007 | nutrition, nutritional therapist, supplements

I have long believed that good nutrition is an important aspect in helping to protect the skin from sun damage. But that’s probably because I believe that good nutrition improves every aspect of how our body’s function! Think about it – if we are not eating healthily, then the mechanisms we have in our skin to protect us from sun damage might not be working efficiently because they will not have the materials they need to function properly.

The recent BBC series ‘The Truth About Food’ featured a lady who was particularly prone to sunburn. She took part in an experiment to find out whether lycopene (an antioxidant found in tomatoes) would help protect her skin from sunburn. She ate 55g of concentrated tomato paste every day for 12 weeks. Her skin was tested for its capacity to burn before and after the 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, her skin showed a 30% increase in skin protection, which is a very significant increase. She was delighted and could already notice the benefits of being able to sit in the sun without burning straight away.

I’ve seen another piece of research recently. This time, a nutrient called lutein was shown to help protect the skin from premature ageing caused by exposure to the sun. Lutein is a yellow pigment found naturally in vegetables and fruits where it helps to protect the green chlorophyll against damaging ultraviolet light.

Researchers at Naples university conducted a study on 120 women aged between 25 and 50 over 12 weeks. Some took a supplement of lutein, others a supplement of lutein plus a cream containing lutein, while others used placebos.

It was found that the skin of those taking the lutein supplement multiplied its photo-protective activity by 25 times.
The research was carried out using a supplement containing 10mg of lutein extracted from marigold flowers known as FloraGLO. If you want to maximise the lutein content of your diet through food alone, then it helps if you like your greens. A 100g serving each of spinach and watercress will give you 10mg of this yellow pigment, as will a large red pepper or 200g of romaine lettuce. Just 50g of kale will also do the trick.

This research suggests that eating more lutein-rich foods may help your anti-ageing plan, although alcohol hinders absorption of this pigment.