Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dark chocolate can help sun-protection but is not a sunscreen alternative

A study has revealed that a daily portion of dark chocolate could protect the skin against wrinkles caused by UV from the sun. However, experts advise that chocolate should not be considered an alternative to sunscreens.

The research, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology by researchers at private Harley Street clinic European Dermatology, involved 22 women with an average age of 42. For a three-month period, half the volunteers consumed a daily portion of 20 grammes of dark chocolate droplets that were very high in flavanols, the antioxidants that naturally occur in cocoa beans.

The rest of the volunteers ate chocolate that looked identical but had lower flavanol content. The volunteers were regularly exposed to controlled doses of UV light to assess how long it took before their skin became inflamed. The results revealed that among those on low-flavanol chocolate, there was no change in the amount of UV light tolerated by their skin. For those with the high-content chocolate, there was a significant improvement in the skin’s resistance to the sun’s effects.

Researcher and dermatologist at the European Dermatology London Dr Stefanie Williams, said that consumption of high-flavanol chocolate should not replace topical application of sunscreens but should be used as an additional measure to help protect skin. She said, “At the moment we would not advise people to replace traditional sunscreens with consumption of antioxidant foods such as high-flavanol chocolate, but these two measures work well in concert and can be used together.”

Nutritionist Carina Norris explained that she didn’t believe that the amount of flavanols in chocolate would “give you any photoprotection worth speaking of”.
She added, “Any slight effect would be negligible, compared to, say, the photoprotection from a sunscreen.”

Norris warned against advising the public to compare the consumption of chocolate to the protective benefits of traditional suncreens. She said, “As a nutritionist, I’d be very wary of promoting the photoprotective properties of flavanols, in case people think they can get away with going without sunscreen, simply because they’ve eaten some high-flavanol chocolate.”The health benefits of dark chocolate have been publicised for some time, however, Ailsa Higgins, senior nutritionist at Champneys in Tring, commented that consumption needed to be in moderation. She said, “Too much chocolate will make you fatter, and to get real health benefits you need to eat quite a lot, everyday.

“However, as part of a healthy diet, a couple of squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) can make a little contribution to your health and pleasure.”

Kate Donovan, Laura McCreddie and Jenni Middleton

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