New research from England should make dermatologists happy: A “tan” gained by eating lots of vegetables rich in carotenoids (antioxidant chemicals found in vegetables such as carrots and beet greens) is considered more attractive than a tan obtained from the sun.
At least, that’s the opinion of several British university students.
To test a theory that a healthy diet might make a person more attractive, researchers at the University of Nottingham, the University of St. Andrews and Bristol University showed a series of photographed faces to a few dozen students.
Ian Stephen, University of NottinghamThe middle photo shows the woman's natural color. On the left, the suntanned. On the right, yellowing from carotenoids.
The students could adjust the skin tone of the photographed faces, making them more yellow, more suntanned or more pale.
According to the new study, the students found yellower faces more attractive and healthy looking.
In another study, the researchers found that students eating diets rich in vegetables and fruits had yellower skin than those who didn’t.
The research will soon be published in the journal of Evolution and Human Behavior.
“Most people think the best way to improve skin color is to get a suntan, but our research shows that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is actually more effective,” said Ian Stephen, a psychologist at the University of Nottingham.
Carotenoids are antioxidants that help the body cope with stress and remain healthy. Scientists have found that they are vital in maintaining healthy immune and reproductive function.
The scientists theorize that skin shining with a carrot-like glow may indicate health to potential mates and allies, and therefore appear more attractive to others.
“This is something we share with many other species,” said David Perrett, a professor at St. Andrews who contributed to the study. “The bright yellow beaks and feathers of many birds can be thought of as adverts showing how healthy a make bird is. What’s more, females of these species prefer to mate with brighter, more colored males. But this is the first study in which this has been demonstrated in humans.”
Examples of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids include carrots, cantaloupe melons, beet greens, spinach, kale and persimmons.