Using sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure are two things we stress at our office in Boca Raton. However, living under the hot Florida sun doesn’t make it easy to avoid UVB rays. The good news is that a recent study has found a diet that can help protect against skin cancer.
Dr. Niva Shapira of Tal Aviv University’s School of Health Professions recently contributed to a study published in Nutrition Reviews that found a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants can prevent sun cancer. By penetrating the skin and causing photo-oxidation, sun exposure damages both the immune system and the skin. The Mediterranean diet—which contains foods such as yogurt, fish, and olive oil—is said to fight the oxidizing effects of the sun.
During the study, Dr. Shapira dn Professor Bodo Kuklinski of Rostock University gave two groups of subjects two different beverages to drink: soda and a drink high in antioxidants. The two groups were then exposed to the sun 5-6 hours daily for a period of two weeks.
At the end of the two weeks, the group who drank the antioxidant beverage had fifty percent few oxidation products in the blood than the group who drank soda. The study also found that antioxidants such as carotenoids delay tissue damage that can lead to skin cancer.
According to Dr. Shapira, this information is imperative as free radicals and other environmental factors are now limiting the effects of sunscreen. While avoiding sun exposure is the best advice, it is impossible to do. By combining the use of sunscreen, an antioxidant diet and protective clothing you are promoting skin health.
While omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can be found as supplements, altering your diet to naturally contain these nutrients is the most effective way to reap the benefits.
"In foods, many vitamins and various antioxidants and bioactive ingredients work to support one another and the body's natural protective mechanisms. Synergies between the nutrients in your food, which make a significant contribution to health, may contrast with the relative isolation of a vitamin supplement,” says Dr. Shapira
Following this study, the Israeli Cancer Association included nutritional information as part of the “Smart in the Sun” advisories for the first time this year.
Some foods to avoid include red meat, alcohol, and processed food. Photosensitizing foods, which include parsley, cilantro, figs, dill and celery, can increase the damage done by the sun. Visit the Mayo Clinic’s webpage dedicated to the Mediterranean diet for more information on what suggested foods to eat.