Tired of sunburns that leave you red as a tomato? Then eat more tomatoes! Tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and red grapefruit contain lycopene, a carotenoid that might lower your sunburn risk, according to new British research.
Scientists from the University of Manchester took a direct approach — actually exposing 20 volunteers’ skin to UV light to see whether consumption of lycopene-rich tomato paste (mixed with olive oil, to enhance absorption) reduced sunburn damage. The result: The tomato-fed group had 33% more protection against sunburn when compared to the control group.
So, what would you have to eat to get the same effect observed in the study? The chart below lists the amounts of various foods needed to supply the effective amount:
|Fresh Tomatoes||5 medium|
|Tomato Paste||4 teaspoons|
|Tomato Juice (canned)||3/4 cup|
|Pink/Red Grapefruit||5 whole|
Lycopene isn’t the only carotenoid linked to sunburn protection: As reported in a previous newsletter, beta-carotene has a similar effect. German scientists recently reviewed the results of seven studies on beta-carotene, concluding that while it does offer limited protection (an SPF of about 4) you’d need about 10 weeks to reach an effective level. Get your beta-carotene from carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cantaloupes — not supplements, which doubled the lung cancer risk among current and former smokers in one clinical study. Finally, remember that lycopene and beta-carotene are no substitutes for adequate sunscreen application!
Published July 1, 2008