How vegetables can give you that golden glow

Scientists prove that your five a day make you more attractive – by subtly altering your skin colour

Photo: Nottingham University

Chris Arnot

Most of us know that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day will do us far more good than 20 minutes on a sun bed or two hours basted with factor 10 and sprawled on a Mediterranean beach in high summer. But new research suggests that it will also make us more attractive to the opposite sex. Consequently, it seems far more likely to affect the dietary habits of the young than any amount of hectoring from the Department of Health.

“Currently we tell them to ‘eat well or in 50 years you will have a heart attack’,” says Ian Stephen, 29, assistant professor of psychology at Nottingham University’s Malaysian campus. “Now we can say: ‘eat fruit and veg and you will look better in six to eight weeks’.” But he is adamant that he never set out to find a novel way of reinforcing medical advice. “I don’t really care what people do,” he insists. “I’m an experimental psychologist, not a public health PR man. However, our results suggest that eating well and staying out of the sun would make you look healthier.”

How come? Well, the key component is the carotenoid, an antioxidant responsible for the red colouring found in, for instance, tomatoes, peppers, plums and carrots. That redness eventually imbues the human skin with yellowness, or rather a healthy-looking golden glow. “Carotenoids are stored in fat under the skin,” Stephen explains. “They are also secreted through the skin in serum, and are then reabsorbed into the top layer of the skin, bestowing that golden colour.”

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