Coffee & chocolate protecting skin
Researchers at Quebec's Laval University's Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods are looking into chocolate and its relationship with UV light. Right now, researchers are gathering fair-skinned female volunteers to eat three squares of chocolate, everyday, for 12 weeks. The idea behind it is that polyphenols, a chemical found in chocolate, has been known to increase blood flow to the skin which can help protect against damaging UV light. The women will be exposed to UV light and scientist will monitor their damage. If polyphenols are indeed increased, the group of women that have been eating chocolate should have a smaller degree of UV damage compared to the control group.
While the study in Quebec is still looking for volunteers, researchers at Rutgers University have just finished up their own study that shows that caffeine is also good at fighting UV damage. The study, found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that caffeine guards against certain skin cancers at the molecular level, by inhibiting a protein enzyme in the skin known as ATR. It namely focused on ATR, a protein enzyme that's inhibited by caffeine.
The research is building on an older study where mice drank caffeinated water. The caffeinated mice that were exposed to UVB radiation were able to kill off a greater percentage of their badly-damaged cells, and reduce the risk of cells developing cancer. In the new study, researchers genetically modified one group of mice to reduce the protein enzyme ATR, and then exposed them and a group of unmodified mice to ultraviolet light. The result was genetically-modified mice developed tumors more slowly than unmodified mice; had 69 percent fewer tumors than regular mice; and developed four times fewer invasive tumors.
Allan Conney of the department of chemical biology at Rutgers University notes "All of this suggests the possibility that caffeine, possibly [applied to the skin], would have an inhibitory effect on sunlight-induced skin cancer. In addition to the effects on the ATR pathway, caffeine also has sunscreening properties."
These results were created on a genetic level but researchers will now look into whether or not caffeine applied to the outside of the skin will have the same effect in protection.
For now, we’re still awaiting added research into these ingredients from a convenient topical application standpoint. Maybe in the near future you’ll be slathering mocha frappuccino sunscreens on your body, but I'm not sure if people are going to want to walk around smelling like a Starbucks.