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New Research Brings a New Take on the 5 a Day!

Posted Feb 11 2011 5:06pm

For some time now the virtues of eating 5 portions of fruit & vegetables a day have been extolled for the health benefits that result, but now, according to research carried out in Scotland, eating fruit & vegetables can lead to a change in skin colour which renders us more attractive!

The change in skin colour is caused by the carotenoid present in fruit & vegetables such as plums, tomatoes, carrots & peppers. Ian Stephen who carried out the research at St. Andrew’s University explained how these lead to the change, which appears in Caucasians as a golden glow, “Carotenoids are stored in fat under the skin. They are also secreted through the skin in serum, and are then reabsorbed into the top layer of the skin, bestowing that golden colour.”

The research began at ‘The Perception Lab’ at St. Andrews which specializes in studying ‘the many facets of face perception…What makes one person appear more trustworthy and cooperative than another? What is the relationship between health and attractiveness, and which physiological factors influence this relationship?’ While there has been much research done on face shape there has been little on skin colour.

Stephen described how he conducted the research, ‘There are two main pigments that affect the yellowness of skin. One comes from carotenoids, the other from melanin, which is yellow and dark, giving the brown colour that we associate with a sun tan. Using a scientific instrument called a spectrophotometer, I measured the colour change associated with changes in carotenoid levels and melanin levels in the skin. Then, using a computer programme, I allowed participants to adjust the levels of carotenoid and melanin colour in photographs of faces to make them look as attractive as possible. Participants chose to increase melanin colour slightly, but increased carotenoid colour lots.’

Stephen used a questionnaire to ascertain the daily consumption of fruit and vegetables of another group of participants and then analysed skin tones to confirm that the changes in skin colour were due to changes in carotenoid levels rather than other pigments such as melanin.

The results of the study indicate that ‘a golden glow’ is equated with health & considered attractive by most people. Stephen cites Darwin’s view of skin colour as a contributory factor in sexual attraction: “The whole purpose of attractiveness from an evolutionary point of view is that the person doing the viewing is looking for a viable, healthy, high-quality mate,”

Professor David Perrett, who runs The Perception Lab points out: “This is something we share with other species. For example, the bright yellow beaks and feathers of many birds can be thought of as adverts showing how healthy a male bird is. What’s more, females of those species prefer to mate with brighter, more colourful males. But this is the first study in which this has been demonstrated in humans.”

It’s possible that these latest advantages of consuming 5 a day may just appeal to a whole new following!



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