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Eating grapes may protect against UV damage to the skin

Person Holding Grapes

UV damage to the skin is caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from artificial sources such as tanning beds. UV radiation can cause a variety of skin problems, including sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer.

A recent study highlights the potential of grapes to provide photoprotection.

A recent study published in the journal Antioxidants showed that consuming grapes can protect against UV damage to the skin. Study participants who consumed 2 ¼ cups of grapes daily for two weeks showed greater resistance to sunburn. The study also found a potential correlation between the gut and the skin, as participants who had UV resistance also had unique microbiological and metabolomic profiles. The study suggests that natural compounds called polyphenols found in grapes may be responsible for these protective effects.

This new study reinforces previous research in this area. In this investigation of 29 human volunteers, researchers examined the impact of consuming whole grape powder — equivalent to 2 ¼ cups of grapes a day — for 14 days against photodamage from ultraviolet light. The subjects’ skin response to ultraviolet light was measured before and after consuming grapes for two weeks, determining the threshold dose of ultraviolet radiation that induced visible redness after 24 hours – the Minimum Dose of Erythema (MED). In addition, metabolomic analysis of the intestinal microbiome, blood and urinary samples was performed.

Finally, one-third of subjects demonstrated resistance to ultraviolet rays after grape consumption, and these same subjects exhibited significant differences in the microbiome and metabolome compared to non-responders. Notably, the same three urinary metabolites were depressed in the UV-resistant group. One metabolite in particular (2′-deoxyribose) is a strong indicator of reduced photodamage and suggests unique genetic profiles of relevance to personalized medicine.

Furthermore, three of the UV-resistant subjects showed a lasting response where UV protection remained after going back to not consuming grapes for another four weeks. This work suggests that a segment of the population is able to resist sunburn after consuming grapes and that there is a correlation between the gut-skin axis and resistance to UV rays.

More than 3 million Americans are affected by skin cancer each year, largely as a result of exposure to sunlight. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. Most cases of skin cancer are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun: about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanomas, respectively. Also, about 90% of skin aging is caused by the sun.

John Pezzuto—lead author of the paper and professor and dean of Western New England University in Springfield, MA—notes “’Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food’ dates back to the time of Hippocrates. Now, after 2,500 years, as exemplified by this human study conducted with diet grapes, we are still learning the reality of this claim.”

Reference: “Short-term grape consumption decreases UV-induced skin erythema” by John M. Pezzuto, Asim Dave, Eun-Jung Park, Diren Beyoğlu, and Jeffrey R. Idle, November 30, 2022, Antioxidants.
DOI: 10.3390/antiox11122372

The study was funded by the California Table Grape Commission. The funder was not involved in preparing the document; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in writing the report; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.