Scientists are telling us all to ditch the sunbed, the sun and even the fake tan and instead eat our way to looking good with the so-called
The secret lies in carotenoids, a class of about 600 related pigments found in plants.
Scientist Ian Stephen, who led the research, examined betacarotene, found in green and orange fruits and vegetables. He believes the results demonstrate that humans are programmed to look for health in a prospective mate, and that we see beyond the temporary effect produced by sunshine.
The experiments involved comparing before and after photographs of individuals encouraged to adopt a five-a-day diet; comparing skin tone among those reporting high and low carotenoid diets; and asking volunteers to evaluate the skin tone on photographs of men's and women's faces.
The volunteers consistently rejected the suntanned look, in favour of a complexion that matched the tones achieved with an optimum diet.
The positive affect of betacarotene came as no surprise to me. I remember in my late teens, when getting a good tan was part and parcel of a successful holiday, someone telling me that carrot oil was the way to go if we wanted a quick, lasting tan.
So we duly lathered ourselves in the sweet-smelling oil and lay in the sun turning a curious shade of orange. I was not convinced that looking a shade of carroty orange was all that attractive, but my friend insisted we looked great. Of course it lasted about a week after we got home, and of course we all now know better than to lie in the sun covered in oil.
But I did have a little smile to myself when I saw the research. However, this time the experts are suggesting that we imbibe the betacarotene-rich fruit and veg rather than wear it, which sounds like a much more sensible idea to me.
Whether it works for me or not it is too soon to say, but one thing is certain, it is a great way to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg. Appealing to our vanity is far more effective than preaching to us about the dangers of not eating enough fruit and veg which will lead to obesity, heart disease or an increased risk of cancer. Instead it is reverting to all the things we parents know. Positive affirmation. Praise the good, ignore the bad.
By telling us something positive will come out of eating five portions of fruit and veg a day, we are much more likely to do it than if we are told bad things will happen to us if we don't.
I am surprised it has taken the health experts so long to work this out. By the way where did I put that Granny Smith?