After slimness, a beautiful skin is probably the second most sought after trait we humans desire. Women in particular, will do practically anything and spend vast amounts of money on achieving a beautiful face and skin.
I have noticed that for the past year or so, beauty creams and lotions sound more like health menus every day. “Use cream X, which is rich in vitamin C and hydroxy acids!” or “Apply night cream B enriched with calcium to make wrinkles disappear!” The question now arises if eating certain foods, with added nutrients that may, or may not, enhance skin appearance, will also make you look more beautiful?
Edible beauty products
According to Laura Jones writing in the January 2010 Edition of Food Review, “The global food industry is seeing a massive rise in edible beauty products as emphasis on youth, beauty and anti-aging grows.” More and more people are turning to foods with special properties to enhance their looks to ensure quality of life, desirability, a more enjoyable social life and even improved status at work.
A growing trend
An analysis of the global market for so-called "Nutricosmetics" indicates that at present it is valued at $1.5bn and that this lucrative market is expected to grow to $2.5bn by 2012 (Jones, 2010).
Three aspects of edible beauty products
According to Jones (2010), edible beauty products are designed to target three areas of beauty:
- The skin (repair, prevention, sun protection, firmness, pigmentation, whitening)
- Hair (retention, growth, restoration, nourishment, volumising)
- Nails (strengthening and preventing splitting and brittle nails)
In the USA, a Dove milk chocolate bar produced by Mars Snackfood is already on sale. It is aimed at women between the ages of 25 and 49 years who are interested in health and beauty, but also want to spoil themselves a little. The Dove beauty bar contains cacao flavonoids and a combination of vitamins to nourish and hydrate the skin.
Another company called Frutels is selling a chocolate acne product targeted at a younger market. According to the advertisement, the Frutels’ bar contains ingredients that “Support the body’s own defences again acne by regulating hormone fluctuations, supplying critical micronutrients absent in poor diets and alleviating the effects of stress on the body.” (Jones, 2010). This product sounds too good to be true and I doubt that any of these claims will stand up to scrutiny.
The powerful Nestle Company is also selling a collagen-containing instant coffee as part of its range of Nescafe body partner drinks (Jones, 2010).
No scientific evidence?
The problem with all these Nutricosmetics and their alluring claims is that there is very little scientific evidence available to support their assertions that eating or drinking such products will make your skin more elastic and less wrinkled and/or enhance your beauty.
One of the first studies to emerge, was conducted by the Skin Investigation and Technology (SIT) research centre in Hamburg, Germany which tested the effect of consuming 300 mg of cacao flavonols twice a day on skin elasticity. According to their results, these flavonols did improve the elasticity of the skin (Jones, 2010).
In another double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised in vivo study, 15 healthy adults (average age 50 years) consumed a 200 ml serving of Acticoa drink daily for 6 weeks while the control group of 15 matched subjects drank the same dose of cacao powder made by conventional processes. At the end of 6 weeks, the Acticoa group had improved their skin hydration properties by an average of 21%, while the control group did not show any changes in skin appearance (Acticoa, 2010)
The manufacturer of Acticoa dark chocolate, Barry Callebaut, now claims that two 10g servings of the Acticoa dark chocolate a day will improve skin elasticity and help prevent skin aging (Pharmacos, 2010).
So the old adage that eating chocolate is bad for the skin, seems to be on its way out!
At present I could not find any of the above mentioned products for sale in South Africa, but it should not be long before we too will be able to buy such internal beauty aids.
In the meanwhile, South Africans who would like to improve their skins can of course still rely on eating a well balanced diet that is naturally rich in protective nutrients.
Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to boost your flavonoid intake, get plenty of rest, use a good moisturiser and always wear a sun screen with a high protection factor to prevent sun-induced aging and wrinkling of the skin.
While we wait for an elixir of youth and beauty to be developed that will keep us young and desirable for ever, a sensible and possibly less expensive regimen which looks after your health and skin should also keep the wrinkles at bay.
- (Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, April 2010)
(Acticoa (2010). Acticoa products have proven hydration effects on the skin. (http://www.acticoa.com/en/569) Jones L, (2010). Eat, drink and be beautiful. Food Review, January 2010, pp42-44; Pharmacos (2010). Chocolate improves skin elasticity. (http://www.pharmacos.imix.co.za)