Cocoa-based beverage may protect skin from sunlight-induced wrinkles

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Katharine Hepburn, an American movie legend and classic beauty, once remarked, “What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”

Interestingly, contemporary science is beginning to support her proposition – particularly as it relates to beautiful and ageless skin.

For instance, cell culture studies utilizing skin cells have shown that the cells can be somewhat protected from light-induced oxidative damage if treated with flavanol, a compound found in some cocoa products.

Other studies in humans have provided evidence that cocoa flavanol consumption can make the skin more refractory to the damaging effects of ultraviolet light.

However, not all studies are consistent in their findings, prodding scientists to try to understand the factors responsible for these disparate results.

Recently, researchers tested the effects of consuming a cocoa-flavanol-rich beverage on skin integrity in a group of healthy middle-aged women with visible wrinkles.

Unlike previous studies lasting 3 months, however, the study continues for a full 6 months.

The experiment’s results, which are potentially good news for chocolate enthusiasts, are published in The Journal of Nutrition.

A total of 62 women completed the 6-month study, which required half of them to consume a cocoa beverage containing 320 milligrams of cocoa flavanols daily; the remaining control women were instead provided with a flavanol-free cocoa-based beverage.

To put this in perspective, dark chocolate candy bars contain anywhere between 50 and 300 milligrams of flavanol per single serving.

The study was double-blinded, meaning that neither the primary researchers nor the participants knew to which group each woman was assigned.

This scientific tactic helps prevent any bias that might occur due to researcher or subject expectations.

At the beginning, middle, and end of the study, the investigators measured wrinkles, skin elasticity, and hydration levels in the area around the eyes where “crow’s feet” wrinkles are all too common.

At the end of the study, the women consuming the cocoa beverage had less severe wrinkles and better skin elasticity than the control women.

There was no effect of flavanol consumption on skin hydration. The researchers posit that regular cocoa flavanol consumption may be a good strategy for the prevention of the progression of skin aging.

Citation: Yoon H-S, et al. (2016). Cocoa flavanol supplementation influences skin conditions of photo-aged women: a 24-week double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Nutrition 146: 46-50.