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An article recently published in Nutrition Reviews suggested that certain foods – ones are the are high polyphenols – may do a better job of protecting the skin from melanoma than a sunscreen.
The author, Niva Shapira of Tel Aviv University, wrote: "The increasing incidence of skin cancer despite the use of externally applied sun protection strategies, alongside research showing that nutrients reduce photo-oxidative damage, suggest nutritional approaches could play a beneficial role in skin cancer prevention."
Protective nutrients include antioxidant vitamins and fatty acids (omegas) Shapira thinks that the presence of these elements in the traditional Greek-style Mediterranean diet may have contributed to the low rates of melanoma in that region despite lots of sunshine.
The key is a polyphenol-rich diet, a class of antioxidants found in grapes, olives (like extra-virgin olive oil), lemons and other citrus fruits, and brightly colored vegetables.
Sun fighting foods include broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, oranges, fish, olive oil, avocado, almonds, tea, cacao and spices including rosemary and sage. And an apple a day may be just the way to go. A Japanese study found the inhibitory effect of apple polyphenols on melanoma cells was stronger than that of arbutin or kojic acid.
Most of us, however, don’t eat anywhere near enough polyphenols. According to Portuguese researchers, Phenolic acids account for about one-third of the total daily intake in a normal human diet - insufficient to protect from mutagens, which leads to the need for dietary supplementation as an alternative approach. However, the authors caution that consumption of this kind of dietary supplements must be preceded by careful studies.
Intriguingly, the Melanoma Research Alliance calls for more research into the role of exercise as well as nutrition and melanoma.
In the meantime, its time to go back to the O2 Diet, which is a (very) high antioxidant diet. It aims for a daily ORAC target of 30,000 – the present USDA recommendation is about 5,000. Take my word for it, it isn’t easy to achieve. But you’ll be eating a much more healthy diet (even if you think you eat pretty well now, you’ll be surprised) and you may be well on the way to preventing skin cancer. And it doesn't stop there. According to the O2 Diet author, Keri Glassman, some of these foods will make you look younger too.