Grapes act like ‘edible sunscreen,’ protect skin from UV damage and possibly cancer

FRESNO, Calif. — Grapes are a great source of nutrients that keep the inside of a person’s body healthy and strong. A new study finds they may also be doing the same thing for a person’s skin as well. Researchers with the University of Alabama at Birmingham find the fruit can protect the skin against damage from ultraviolet light.

The data, released by the California Table Grape Commission, finds consuming over two cups of grapes a day can increase resistance to a sunburn by nearly 75 percent. Led by principle investigator Craig Elmets, M.D., the team examined how eating whole grape powder daily for two weeks impacted each participant’s Minimal Erythema Dose (MED).

The MED is a person’s threshold for UV radiation within 24 hours. Once someone reaches their limit, the skin becomes red and it can result in a sunburn. Using a daily dose of grape powder equal to 2.25 cups of grapes, study authors discovered that the MED rises by 74.8 percent.

‘Significant photoprotective effect with grape consumption’

Researchers also took biopsies from the participants to see how their skin fared on a deeper level. The results reveal a grape diet can decrease the DNA damage UV exposure causes, lowers the number of dead skin cells, and reduces inflammation. All of these factors play a role in impairing skin function and can even lead to skin cancer if left unchecked.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. While there are many different varieties of the disease, most cases have a connection to UV radiation from the sun. About nine in 10 cases of melanoma, a rare but deadly form of skin cancer, are due to too much sun exposure.

“We saw a significant photoprotective effect with grape consumption and we were able to identify molecular pathways by which that benefit occurs – through repair of DNA damage and downregulation of proinflammatory pathways,” Dr. Elmets says in a media release. “Grapes may act as an edible sunscreen, offering an additional layer of protection in addition to topical sunscreen products.”

The study appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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