As the east coast endures a particularly nasty stretch of winter weather and snowstorms, it’s safe to assume millions among us are dreaming of summer days and afternoons spent at the beach soaking up the sun.
The sun and all the UV light it provides can do a load of good for one’s health, such as jumpstarting the production of essential vitamin D. Of course, we all know what can happen after spending too much time catching a tan. Sunburn develops gradually, and many don’t even realize the extent of the damage until they return home to find their skin a painful shade of red. On a more serious level, prolonged UV light exposure can also increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
People employ various methods of protecting themselves from excess UV light while catching some sun rays, such as diligently re-applying suntan or wearing a big-brimmed hat.
Now, a new study just conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds that building up improved resistance to sunburn and UV light-related skin damage on the cellular level may be as simple as eating more of a certain kind of fruit.
Researchers say eating grapes may lead to more robust protection against UV light damage to the skin. They believe that the naturally occurring, antioxidant-rich compounds found in grapes known as polyphenols are responsible for this protective effect.
“We saw a significant photoprotective effect with grape consumption and we were able to identify molecular pathways by which that benefit occurs – through repair of DNA damage and downregulation of proinflammatory pathways,” says lead study investigator Dr. Craig Elmets. “Grapes may act as an edible sunscreen, offering an additional layer of protection in addition to topical sunscreen products.”
Who knows, perhaps you’ll arrive for the first big beach day of 2021 only to find the usual summer snack culprits like chips and other junk foods replaced with a landscape of red and green grapes. To be clear, no matter how many grapes one eats they should still apply some sunscreen as well. As Dr. Elmets explains, grapes appear to offer an additional layer of UV light protection for the skin.
To reach these conclusions, a group of study volunteers was given a portion of whole grape powder each day equivalent to 2.25 cups of grapes for a total of two full weeks. Both before and after those two weeks each participant’s Minimal Erythema Dose (MED) was measured.
MED is just the technical term for the minimal amount of UV light radiation needed to induce skin reddening in an individual up to 24 hours after exposure.
Sure enough, the results suggest regular grape consumption leads to improved UV light resistance/protection. In other words, after consuming grapes each day for two full weeks, participants had to be exposed to UV light for longer periods to develop a sunburn.
On average, study subjects’ MED increased by a staggering 74.8%.
Further skin biopsies performed on volunteers also indicate a high-grape diet is linked to fewer skin cell deaths and less inflammation following UV light exposure. This is an important finding because both of those developments are considered major risk factors for skin cancer.
Even if you aren’t an avid beach goer over the summer and have never touched a tanning bed in your life, it’s still probably a good idea to try incorporating some more grapes into your diet. Besides just being delicious and healthy, their skin-protecting powers can benefit anyone and everyone. For instance, roughly 90% of skin aging is believed to be caused by the sun. Perhaps grapes are an untapped fountain (or fruit) of youth.
The full study can be found here, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.