Friday, July 31, 2015

The Internal SPF. The Top 5 Countdown of Best Foods. Number 1.

Those of you who know me saw this coming from a mile away. Hmmm, wonder what the number one food is going to be?? It turns out that the cocoa in the chocolate that you love to love can also protect your skin from UV damage from the sun.

In a study in London, researchers gave two very happy subject groups chocolate to eat for 12 weeks. However, one of them received a high-flavanol chocolate, such as you might get with a high-cocoa chocolate. The second received a low-flavanol chocolate, such as you might get with lighter milk chocolates and “chocolate” confections. After 12 weeks, they tested the skin of these participants with a challenge of UV light to see whether the cocoa flavanols did anything more that make the subjects happy every day.

Over the 12 weeks of chocolate eating, the skin of those who ate the low-flavanol version was no more or less protected from UV radiation. 

No change. However, those who ate the high-flavanol chocolate doubled their protection compared to the baseline.


In other words, after less than 2 weeks of eating high-flavanol chocolate, subjects’ skin was protected from burning even at twice the UV level. Why would this be? What explanation can make that make sense?

One rationale may come from the fact that high-cocoa chocolate can increase microcirculation into the skin itself

Increased blood flow to the topmost layers of the skin (those within only 1 millimeter of the surface) can provide the healthy oxygenation your skin needs to help protect itself.  
Another potential route to skin protection could be the particular polyphenols (catechins and epicatechins) themselves. These specific antioxidants are also found in high concentrations in drinks like green tea, which have a well established effect on suppressing the effects of photoaging, UV-induced radiation, immunosuppression, and carcinogenic activity.

The precise biochemical blah bitty blah is less important for most people than learning that high cocoa chocolate is amazing for your heart, your mind, and now even your skin. In fact, you should treat it like your daily vitamin (vitamin Ch)!

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Internal SPF. The Top 5 Countdown of Best Foods. Number 2.

Let me just be the bearer of good news here. Wine is good for you (Lawyer-Induced Disclaimer: if you don’t overconsume it). We knew this already, but some of the same wine molecules that turn out to be great for your heart, are also beneficial to your skin.

The thing in grapes and wine that are helping your skin, among many other things, are called proanthocyanidins. Blah blah blah with the letter-salad, the important thing is that these elements of wine are really good for your skin. Like you needed one more reason to have a glass with dinner!

Most of the research work has been done with supplementation actually, although there have been some subjects willing to drink wine for science. What a hardship, right? 

Here’s what they found.

The proanthocyanidins protected the skin of lab animals from controlled exposure to UV radiation. Another advantage of them is that they also increased skin hydration. So in addition to providing significant photoprotection for melanocyte skin cells from the oxidative stress of UV exposure, they also help prevent the drying wrinkling sagging skin droop that happens with continual exposure to the sun.

So. We’ve covered lab animals and supplements. What about what we all really want to know? What about humans drinking wine?

Well, drinking red wine itself also provides the skin protection and “may impair the UV-induced erythema reaction as well as carcinogenesis and metastasis of melanoma and epithelial skin cancer.” 

However, and I know how crazy this sounds, but when the scientists actually had their subjects soak in wine baths, it didn’t help their skin. All that time you spent. All that wine!

Keep in mind that the critical element to the protective effect of the wine has absolutely zero to do with the alcohol. None. And I know this sounds like just another Lawyer-Induced Disclaimer, but don’t drink wine because you think it will make you healthier. Drink it because you like it and can control consumption.

A happy correlate of that Cabernet is skin that can be healthier in the process.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Internal SPF. The Top 5 Countdown of Best Foods. Number 3.

The number 3 best foods to get an internal SPF for your skin include all things that have carotenes in them. And like everything else in the world, if a little is good, a lot it not. 

That's because if you eat too many carrots and your skin will turn orange/yellow, like a jaundiced oompa loompa. This condition is called carotenemia, and happens because the carotenes you eat get deposited in your skin.

It’s reversible though, no worries. Just step away from that sweet potato pie for a couple of days and you’re skin will go back to normal.

The good news is that those same carotenes found in all yellow/orange veggies as well as kale and green leafys also absorb both natural and artificial UV radiation, which is the same function of the naturally occurring melanin in your skin.

Maybe you want to skip your veggies and dose up on carotenes with megavitamins. Think again loompa, because recent studies have found that high dose pills actually increase the risk of lung cancer among those who smoke.

Increase it. So don’t think too hard. Seriously. Just eat food.

While you’re munching on your carrot, you might want to add something red to your plate as well. Tomato paste, sun dried tomatoes, and cooked tomatoes all have another species of carotene called lycopene. The equivalent of 2.5 tablespoons of tomato paste (16 mg lycopene) over 8 weeks produced measurable protection from sunburn.

So include orange and red foods like tomatoes, carrots, and squash every chance you get, to boost your skin’s ability to prevent damaging sunburn.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Internal SPF. The Top 5 Countdown of Best Foods. Number 4.

Ellagic acid. You’ve almost certainly never heard of this component of at least 46 different fruits and nuts. 

But it's a huge cancer fighter found in highest concentrations in strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate, walnuts, and pecans.

So yes, it is a cancer fighter also crazy good for your skin. How good? 

If you whip up a little baggie of healthy trail mix before hiking in the sun, will this actually help your skin at all? Or will you just end up wishing you’d stuck with your version 1.0 trail mix of M&Ms, Peanut M&Ms, and caramels?

We should talk about the cancer stuff first though, because it’s kind of amazing. The ellagic acids found in these berries and nuts can help protect your DNA from damage and mutations. Mutations are great in zombie movies and sadly outdated explanations for superhero powers.  But for you and your skin, they’re definitely on the not invited-to-the-party list.

One of the ways ellagic acid foods safeguard your DNA is by allowing cancer cells to go ahead and die like normal cells do after they’ve lived a long healthy productive life of whatever it is they do all day. 

That way, instead of cells going all zombie apocalypse, never dying and eating your organs, they shut down, die, and go to heaven.

Back to your skin, it turns out that ellagic acid can also inhibit the growth of melanoma cells, which are the Darth Vader of skin cancers. Fight them, you must. 

Foods with ellagic acid can help you do just that. In fact, in three cancer cell lines investigated, ellagic acid inhibited the growth and spread of them all.  

Keep in mind that this protection was found for cells living in a petri dish and, while promising, doesn’t show that eating blackberry pie everyday will help your skin just yet. One particular study did seem to show that oral consumption of pomegranate extract (high in ellagic acid) helped protect the skin from sun burn … but that was just one study. 

So far, this all sounds weak so far, except that there’s another aspect to it. You know how when some people get in the sun, they get those brown patches. They’re like little smutty grayish stains, largely on their forehead, cheeks, nose and upper lip. 

Exactly zero people want this.

Those face blotches are caused by sun damage which, you guessed it, are prevented AND reversed by eating foods that have ellagic acid in them.

Now I have your attention.

An ellagic acid extract from pomegranate did this by inhibiting the number of dark melanocytes in the epidermis. The result was lightened “freckles and stains” and reduce UV-induced photoaging in the skin.

Bottom line? Eat berries and nuts. They’re not only a mouth explosion of awesome, they help keep your skin from going all blotchy on you.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Internal SPF. The Top 5 Countdown of Best Foods. Number 5.

The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are very well known, especially for reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

There are 2 basic kinds of omega-3s – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) – which, beyond the benefits it brings for your ticker, are also associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and even longevity.

But we know this by now: have the salmon, take the fish oil, eat according to a Mediterranean diet. But there’s another angle on this nutrient that becomes one more reason to include it in your meals. It turns out that these same omega-3 fatty foods are also good for the most unlikely of organs, your skin.

When people took 10 grams of omega-3 fatty acid fish oil over 3 and 6 months, researchers discovered that the fatty acids were being deposited into the skin of the subjects. Once there, they seemed to protect the skin from sunburn.

Researchers then exposed the subjects’ skin to UV-B radiation, to find out just how much would be required to produce a sunburn. Once that amount of radiation was known, they could give one group the omega-3s for a predefined period of time, and then test again to see if the amount changed.

This study design showed that, after the omega-3s had been incorporated into the skin, the amount of UV-B needed to produce a sun burn more than doubled!

More impressive was the fact that this protective effect was totally time dependent. For example, the longer you took them, the greater the amount deposited into your skin, and (as you would guess) the greater the protection against UV radiation.

Another exceptional discovery about this effect is that it lasted 10 weeks before the skin went back to its pre-omega-3 levels.

If you thought that this might help prevent skin cancer, there is direct evidence that this is in fact true. A 3 month study with omega-3 supplements (only 4 grams in this case) showed all the things the other study showed – an increase in the level of omega-3s in the skin, a decrease in UV-induced sun burn.

But in this case, researchers also looked for the early markers for DNA-damage that can lead to skin cancer. They found that omega-3 consumption can provide “protection by dietary consumption against acute UVR-induced genotoxicity”.

Genotoxicity. You don’t want that.

Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids for those who are growing weary of eating salmon all the time:
  • Flax seed
  • Spices: Basil, oregano, cloves
  • Walnuts and walnut oil
  • Sweet Red Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Eggs from chickens who have been fed on flax
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Edamame

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Internal SPF Foods. The Top 5 Countdown.

It’s summertime. And with the combination of more sunshine + more time out in it, sun becomes the best source of vitamin D and also the most readily available source of skin cancer generation.  

The bottom line is that you need the sun but not too much. The same thing can also be said for all healthy food choices.

Two glasses of wine per day is good for your heart. It will make you live 10 extra years … ten happy, happy years with the wine. Two bottles per day will kill your liver. Sweet potatoes are of the healthiest of all veggies. But ordering the Potato Palooza Platter every day will contribute to overweight, obesity, diabetes and many other unsavory syllables.

Here’s the problem. 

For food, we can give basic guidelines (two glasses of wine, not bottles). But for skin protection, there are no guidelines that work for every person of every skin type in every part of the world. So many variables affect skin cancer risk that any recommendation at all will necessarily fail for most of the people most of the time.

Given that, what are you supposed to do? If you need a rule, just start with this one: don’t burn your skin. And to help your skin avoid sunburn, one solution would be to wear a full-body undersea suit to work every day, or just hole up in your bat cave basement all summer.

Alternatively, there are some short term and longer term solutions. The short term solutions are things you would have to do every time you emerge from your home. These include putting on sun screen, and / or putting on clothing and hats that cover your skin. These external solutions are applied outside your body.

Longer term solutions are applied INSIDE your body, and include foods that decrease the likelihood that your skin will burn in the first place. They do this from within the skin itself, becoming in essence a more durable, water resist, hypoallergenic SPF for your skin.

Another great thing about the internal SPF method is that you don’t have to remember to put it on. It’s inside your skin.

Over the next 5 articles, I am going to describe the foods you can eat to provide an internal SPF for your skin. This will be the tastiest sun screen you have ever applied!

Importantly, none of the foods described are substitutes for topically applied sun screens. The protection they provide to your skin is, in all cases, weaker than what can be achieved by screens. That said, the additional protection is still beneficial, particularly for their ability to repair skin after there has been sun damage. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

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