Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to protect your skin from sun damage -- with food

Researchers at the UK's University of Newcastle found that eating tomatoes helps prevent sunburn.

The volunteers in the study who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste every day were on average 33 percent more protected against sunburn than the control group. Researchers calculated that this quantity of tomatos is the equivalent of constantly wearing a 1.3 SPF sunblock.

The scientists attribute this effect to an antioxidant present in tomatoes called lycopene, which is also responsible for giving tomatoes their red color. It's also found in red carrots, watermelons and papayas.

Lycopene has also been linked in the past with protection against age-related events like macular degeneration, the formation of skin wrinkles, prostate cancer and the rise in bad cholesterol.

The research suggests that we should re-think our understanding of sun damage and skin cancer as not just about exposure, but also diet.

In the past few decades, we have seen dramatic rises in both Vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer, one thought to be caused by not enough sun, and the other by too much sun.

Of course, individual cases vary -- and statistical changes can be partly determined by the immigration of people to climates incompatible with their skin types -- but in general the rise in skin cancer may be closely linked to the degradation of diet.

In the past ten years, an enormous number of discoveries have been made about the link between diet and skin cancer. Broccoli, green tea, grapes, pomegranates, onions, red kidney beans, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, rasperries, strawberries, apples, pecans, cherries, plums and black beans, tumeric (every single one of them a Spartan Diet superfood) have all been found to contain compounds that "fight" skin cancer.

Even extra-virgin olive oil applied to the skin after sun exposure -- a practice the Spartans started in Ancient Greece more than 2,600 years ago and something they did every day -- reduces the risk of skin tumors.

These breakthroughs are typically reported in the media as "this food fights skin cancer" or "that food linked to cancer protection." In reality, humans are designed to both get a lot of sun and also eat the foods that "fight" skin cancer. It's the removal of these foods from our diet that may be a leading cause of the the skin cancer epidemic.

Talk to your doctor about your personal skin cancer risks, based on skin type, climate and other factors. But also don't wait for a cure to come in pill form. Prevention is the best medicine, and the best food is the best prevention.

The Spartan Diet is loaded with all the foods researchers have found to prevent skin cancer. We also call for plenty of outdoor excercise. Doing both wisely in consultation with your doctor is your best approach to optimal health free of vitamin D defficiency and cancer of any kind, including skin cancer.