On his blog, Dr. Joseph Mercola discusses how polyphenols can help protect skin from the effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun. He writes:
According to recent research,1,2 eating what amounts to a little over 60 grapes a day for two weeks can help protect your skin against sunburn. In the study, 29 volunteers were fed 70 grams of grape powder a day for two weeks, or the equivalent of three,126-gram servings of fresh grapes a day, with a three-fourth cup, or about 24 grapes, considered as one serving.3
After the two-week study period, one-third of study subjects (9 of 29) showed increased resistance to ultraviolet (UV)-induced skin erythema (reddening of the skin).
One in 10 retained this benefit for four weeks after they stopped eating the grape powder. Grape skins are rich in polyphenols, which are one of the primary components in grapes responsible for improving the resilience of your skin against UV damage.4 Polyphenols are also anti-inflammatory with antioxidant effects, and play a role in DNA repair mechanisms.5 As noted in a 2010 paper:6
“Chemoprevention refers to the use of agents that can inhibit, reverse, or retard the process of these harmful events in the UV-exposed skin. A wide variety of polyphenols or phytochemicals … have been reported to possess substantial skin photoprotective effects.
This review article summarizes the photoprotective effects of some selected polyphenols, such as green tea polyphenols, grape seed proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, silymarin and genistein, on UV-induced skin inflammation, oxidative stress, and DNA damage …
It is suggested that polyphenols may favorably supplement sunscreens protection, and may be useful for skin diseases associated with solar UV radiation-induced inflammation, oxidative stress and DNA damage.”
Polyphenols are phytochemicals found in natural plant foods. More than 8,000 polyphenols have been identified in foods such as tea, wine, chocolate, fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants such as polyphenols help protect the cells in your body from free radical damage, thereby controlling the rate at which you age, and that includes your skin, where aging becomes quite visible.
If your body does not get adequate protection, free radicals can become rampant, causing impaired cell function that not only can lead to tissue degradation, but also put you at risk of chronic diseases.
Polyphenols are what give fruits, berries and vegetables their vibrant colors, and contribute to the bitterness, astringency, flavor, aroma and oxidative stability of the food. In the plant, they protect against ultraviolet radiation, pathogens, oxidative damage and harsh climatic conditions. In the human body, polyphenols have been shown to have a diverse array of biological properties,7,8 including the following:
Protecting your skin against ultraviolet radiation, as demonstrated in the featured study9,10 Fighting cancer cells and inhibiting angiogenesis11 (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor) — Several studies have demonstrated the usefulness of polyphenols in the prevention of cancer.12,13,14,15 Researchers believe the antioxidant effects of polyphenols help protect DNA from free radical damage, which can trigger cancer development. Polyphenols also reverse epigenetic markers in the DNA believed to reduce tumor growth Promoting brain health and protecting against dementia16,17,18 Fighting free radicals and reducing the appearance of aging Reducing inflammation Protecting your cardiovascular system,19 in part by inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which can cause complications with atherosclerotic plaques20 Supporting normal blood sugar levels21 Promoting normal blood pressure Reducing your risk of osteoporosis, thanks to its positive effect on bone metabolism22,23 Improving your gut health — Polyphenols appear to have a prebiotic effect, improving the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. Much of the research has been done on green tea, which plays an important role on balancing your gut flora by increasing good bacteria and reducing the number of bad bacteria.24,25,26,27 Researchers have also found improvements in gut flora with moderate consumption of red wine and chocolate28,29
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