Who needs sunscreen when you have chocolate?

By Seriously Science | August 7, 2013 12:00 pm

Photo: flickr/Charles Haynes

Tired of slathering on sunscreen every time you want to spend some time outside? Try eating chocolate instead! Chocolate naturally contains very high levels of antioxidants (flavanols), but these are mostly lost during conventional chocolate processing. In this study, the researchers tested whether simply eating high-flavonol chocolate could help protect people’s skin from the effects of the sun (measured here by “minimal erythema dose” [MED], or the amount of UV exposure needed to produce a sunburn). Surprisingly, after the subjects ate 20 g of high-flavanol chocolate daily for 12 weeks, their MEDs doubled compared to a control group who ate conventional low-flavanol chocolates. So go ahead, bring your chocolate to the beach … but maybe think twice about the bikini?

Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light.

Cocoa beans fresh from the tree are exceptionally rich in flavanols. Unfortunately, during conventional chocolate making, this high antioxidant capacity is greatly reduced due to manufacturing processes.
To evaluate the photoprotective potential of chocolate consumption, comparing a conventional dark chocolate to a specially produced chocolate with preserved high flavanol (HF) levels.
A double-blind in vivo study in 30 healthy subjects was conducted. Fifteen subjects each were randomly assigned to either a HF or low flavanol (LF) chocolate group and consumed a 20 g portion of their allocated chocolate daily. The minimal erythema dose (MED) was assessed at baseline and after 12 weeks under standardized conditions.
In the HF chocolate group the mean MED more than doubled after 12 weeks of chocolate consumption, while in the LF chocolate group, the MED remained without significant change.
Our study demonstrated that regular consumption of a chocolate rich in flavanols confers significant photoprotection and can thus be effective at protecting human skin from harmful UV effects. Conventional chocolate has no such effect.”

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  • Daniel Hunsicker

    Since the HF chocolate in the study was produced specifically for this purpose, can you tell us where we might find these types of chocolates in stores? Do any such products exist on the shelves? I like chocolate much more than I like sunscreen, and I live in Florida. Like I need a reason to purchase expensive chocolate, lol. Seriously, though–what sort of chocolate should we skin-conscious folks be searching for?

  • jjm172

    I spent some time looking around the internet for information on this. I think its difficult to find good information. The only thing i found was several companies promoting their patented processes to preserve flavonoids in chocolate (google choconat, cocoavia and acticoa also see link in above article). According to the claims out there the traditional harvesting and processing practices destroy most of the flavonols so even eating dark chocolate will not get you the flavonols. What concerns me is most of these are industry studies promoting their process, don’t know how objective they are and the whole chocolate as a medicine (buy it in pills!) really turned me off.

    • Odin Matanguihan

      They are planted/harvested/processed in my country. If you can identify at which stage the flavonol is destroyed(and how it is destroyed), I can instruct the people in my hometown to do things differently. It does have the downside that you have to do most of the processing yourself. The pure chocolate we sell is bitter, the ones that consumers are familiar with is mostly milk and sugar.

      • jjm172

        i was interested in this topic so i have been researching it more myself. What you said about bitter is exactly right. It turns out most of the bitterness comes from the flavonoids. So the processing that removes the bitterness removes the flavonoids. All you need to do is avoid the alkalization or dutch processing. This removes the bitterness but removes the flavonoids. There are many very expensive products out there that claim to maintain the flavonoids but all you need to do is find products that avoid the alkalization process. I found a that all natural hershey’s cacao powder is one product. Its very cheap and i am trying it out. It’s bitter but i like it. One more thing all dark chocolate has been dutch processed, that means dark chocolate is low in flavonoids, often opposite what might be assumed.

        • Odin Matanguihan

          They’re commonly sold in tablet form in my hometown. I think I’m lucky that I had the pure thing cheap for most of my life. Though the skin protection bonus seems a bit superfluous considering my skin color.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Julianna Robinson

      Click on the word high-flavonol chocolate in the text around the picture… it’s a link to a place where you can buy it. 😛

  • slgibbs1

    How can I sign up for a study like this? Wow! I’d love to get paid to eat chocolate!

  • Virtuous2012

    What other food product contains high amounts of flaveonoids?


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