The People's Perspective on Medicine

Does Chocolate Prevent Sunburn?

Q. I’ve recently read that dark chocolate can help the skin resist the ultraviolet rays of the sun due to its antioxidant qualities. Is that really true?

A. You would need to consume high-flavanol (antioxidant) chocolate or cocoa for several months to get this benefit, but it is real. In one study, women were randomly assigned to drink either high-flavanol or low-flavanol cocoa for three months. The response to ultraviolet (UV) exposure was measured at the beginning and end of the trial. Skin reddening dropped 25 percent in the women on high-flavanol cocoa (Journal of Nutrition, June, 2006).

Another investigation had a similar design, but the subjects were given conventional low-flavanol dark chocolate or special high-flavanol dark chocolate (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Sept., 2009). After 12 weeks, the high-flavanol group could manage twice as much UV before burning. Supplements such as CocoaVia offer flavanols without the fat and calories of candy.  There is more information about chocolate, one of our favorite foods, in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, available in libraries, bookstores and here.

If you don’t care for chocolate, consider tomatoes. A study in the British Journal of Dermatology  (Jan., 2011) demonstrated that women who consumed tomato paste in olive oil for three months got significant protection from sunburn.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I read recently that rinsing canned vegetables, in a strainer for example, removes a significant amount of sodium. Would doing this also remove some or most of the BPA that lines the cans the vegetables are packed in? Have there been any studies?

Astazanthin will help with the sunburn. It does amazing things for the skin, but stopping the burn was a great surprise for me-a welcome one.
People’s Pharmacy response: We were not aware of this effect. There is research showing benefit from topical application of astaxanthin:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22628205

Two questions: How do I know the pure cocoa powder I buy is high or low flavonoid? Does the chocolate protect against skin cancer?

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