Category Archives: Studies

Can Red Wine Help Prevent Sunburn Damage?

Substances in red grapes may block sunburn-related chemical changes in skin cells—changes that lead to damaged skin—a team of Spanish researchers has found.

glass of red wine

Substances in red grapes may block sunburn-related chemical changes in skin cells—changes that lead to damaged skin—a team of Spanish researchers has found.

Those same substances, known as flavonoids, are also found in red wine.

Specifically, the study (published earlier this year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry) found that flavonoids block the action of molecules known as “reactive oxygen species.” Previous research has shown that these molecules, which are generated by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, alter how skill cells function—even destroying some of them.

But don’t go tossing out your sunscreen for a bottle of your favorite Merlot. The findings from this study, which was conducted on skin cells in a laboratory, are very preliminary.

Nor is it likely that scientists are going to find that drinking one or two glasses of red wine (or grape juice, for that matter) daily will be all you need to protect yourself from UV damage.

Where this science may be leading, however, is to new skincare products—ones that incorporate flavonoids into their active ingredients. Stay tuned.

Fair-Skinned? You May Need Vitamin D Supplements

Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D for humans.

close up on baby's eye

People with very pale skin may need to take vitamin D supplements to meet their body’s health needs, reports a recent British study.

The need for the supplements arises, according to the study, because people with pale skin tend to avoid the sun.

Staying out of the sun is, of course, a wise decision, particularly for fair-skinned individuals, who sunburn easily and are therefore at increased risk of developing skin cancer. But sun avoidance may also lower an individual’s vitamin D levels, which the body needs for strong bones and other health reasons. Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D for humans.

For the study, which was published in the October 2011 issue of the journal Cancer Causes and Control, researchers at the University of Leeds measured the vitamin D blood levels of about 1,200 people. They found that 730 of the study’s participants had lower than optimal levels of the nutrient. Furthermore, those who were fair-skinned had significantly lower levels.

The researchers chose 60nmol/L as the optimal vitamin D level because some research has suggested that when levels drop below that amount, the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and other illnesses increases. But not all scientists agree. Many experts put the optimal vitamin D level much lower—at 25nmol/L.

So, although the fair-skinned individuals in the study tended to have the lowest levels of vitamin D, it’s not yet clear that those levels are unhealthful.

Before you worry about your vitamin D levels being too low, talk with your physician. And continue to protect your skin from the sun.

Breastfeeding Does Not Protect Babies from Eczema

We found no evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for four months or longer protects against eczema.

close up on baby's eye

Breastfeeding a baby for at least four months does not appear to reduce the chances of the baby eventually developing eczema, European researchers have found.

This is disappointing news, as earlier research had suggested that breastfeeding might help provide children with some protection against this uncomfortable and often painful skin disease.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Dermatology, analyzed data from an international asthma and allergy study that involved more than 51,000 children worldwide. The data included information on how long each child was breastfed (if at all), when they were weaned, and whether or not they had allergies. The children had also been examined for eczema.

“We found no evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for four months or longer protects against eczema,” the study’s authors concluded.

But, they added, this doesn’t mean babies shouldn’t be breastfed. As many studies have shown, breastfeeding provides infants with significant nutritional and other health advantages. Eczema-free skin just doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Sunscreen May Help Skin Retain Its Youthful-looking “Padding”

There is plenty of solid scientific evidence that sunscreens can help protect your skin from other aspects of premature aging.

sunblock streaks on skin

Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen may have benefits that go beyond protecting your skin from premature wrinkles, spider veins, and “age” spots.

Sunscreens may also help preserve the skin’s lower (subcutaneous) layer of fat. The thinning of subcutaneous fat is one of the key reasons aging facial skin begins to wrinkle, sag, and lose its youthful contours.

In recent laboratory experiments, researchers at the Skin Research Center at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies in Skillman, N.J., found that using a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen blocks the secretion of interleukin-11 (IL-11), a protein that’s believed to play a role in the thinning of subcutaneous fat.

These findings suggest that sunscreens “may prevent IL-11-mediated loss of subcutaneous fat and might slow or reverse photo-induced changes in facial contouring,” one of the researchers involved in the study told Dermatology Times.

More research is needed, of course, to confirm this study’s specific results. But there is plenty of solid scientific evidence that sunscreens can help protect your skin from other aspects of premature aging.

So put on a sunscreen each time you go out in the sun—in winter as well as in summer.