The precise biochemical blah bitty blah is less important for most people than learning that high cocoa chocolate is amazing for your heart, your mind, and now even your skin. In fact, you should treat it like your daily vitamin (vitamin Ch)!
Those of you who know me saw this coming from a mile away. Hmmm, wonder what the number one good-for-your-skin food is going to be?? It turns out that the cocoa in the chocolate that you love to love can also protect your skin from UV damage from the sun.
In a study in London, researchers gave two very happy subject groups chocolate to eat for 12 weeks. However, one of them received a high–flavanol chocolate, such as you might get with a high-cocoa chocolate. The second received a low-flavanol chocolate, such as you might get with lighter milk chocolates and “chocolate” confections. After 12 weeks, they tested the skin of these participants with a challenge of UV light to see whether the cocoa flavanols did anything more that make the subjects happy every day.
Over the 12 weeks of chocolate eating, the skin of those who ate the low-flavanol version was no more or less protected from UV radiation.
However, those who ate the high-flavanol chocolate doubled their protection compared to the baseline. In other words, after less than 2 weeks of eating high-flavanol chocolate, subjects’ skin was protected from burning even at twice the UV level. Why would this be? What explanation can make that make sense?
Why would this be? What could be going on physiologically that could explain the outcome? One rationale come from the fact that high-cocoa chocolate can increase microcirculation into the skin itself.
Increased blood flow to the topmost layers of the skin (those within only 1 millimeter of the surface) can provide the healthy oxygenation your skin needs to help protect itself.
Another potential route to skin protection could be the particular polyphenols (catechins and epicatechins) themselves. These specific antioxidants are also found in high concentrations in drinks like green tea, which have a well established effect on suppressing the effects of photoaging, UV-induced radiation, immunosuppression, and carcinogenic activity.