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Are You Yellow?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Recently, there was a study published in the Public Library of Science One (PLoS ONE) that examined the effects of eating fruits and vegetables on skin color. The researchers ran a couple of tests to see if skin color changed based on the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed and if the color changed, did it have an effect on the perceived health levels or attractiveness of the subjects.

First a little background, carotenoids are pigments found in most fruits and vegetables. They provide color and often are involved in the energy production in plants. When we eat them, they serve as great antioxidants. There are also several studies suggesting that carotenoids help improve the immune system, reduce cancer risk and turn you into a superhero (that last benefit may or may not be a made up study by mothers around the world).

Since carotenoids provide the color in plants, these researchers wanted to know if our bodies changed colors based on the amount of carotenoids we consume. They studied a few dozen students over a 6-week period. They measured the skin color at weeks 0, 3 and 6 and had the students report the amount of fruits and vegetables they consumed. They determined “that fruit and vegetable consumption changes over a six-week period are sufficient to confer measurable skin-color changes over this interval.”

Now they know that an instrument can detect changes in skin tone, but can mere mortals distinguish it and does it have an effect on perceived health and attractiveness? They took pictures of four people and used a computer to change the yellowness of their skin tones to represent what they would look like if they ate more or less fruits and vegetables. Then they showed two pictures at opposite ends of the yellowness spectrum to students and asked them to choose which was more attractive and which looked healthier. They progressively showed pictures closer to the middle of the spectrum and found “that the skin-color changes associated with fruit and vegetable consumption is seen as healthy and attractive, and is detectable at a relatively modest level of dietary change.”

It seems that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by just a couple of servings per day can make you appear more attractive and healthy. Next time someone asks if you are yellow bellied you can proudly confirm that you are!

(Whitehead RD, Re D, Xiao D, Ozakinci G, Perrett DI (2012) You Are What You Eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.00329
88 http://www.plosone.org/article
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Interesting stuff!

    Thanks for sharing it!

    Make it a great day!
    2843 days ago
    I'm pretty sure the superhero thing is totally scientific. At least that's what I tell my nieces and nephews! emoticon
    2866 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this, I love it!
    3090 days ago
    Intriguing. Thanks for sharing.

    On a side note, I recently started sleeping with the aid of a C-PAP machine, which basically eliminates snoring by forcing along healthy air flow. In the two weeks or so that I have been gaining sleep, likely deep sleep, people have said that my coloring has changed for the better.

    3107 days ago
    Great info! Yet one more reason to get more freggies in!
    emoticon Thanks for sharing!
    3107 days ago
    LOL. Thanks for sharing CK. My thoughts never even circled around toward anything such as this. I will eat my fruits/veggies with pride!!

    3107 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9543726
    That's interesting. As someone who once studied psychology in school, I love to see experiments like this. I wonder if there's any false or parallel correlation there though (I have yet to go read about the experiment). I've noticed that when people are eating more fruits and veggies, their mental health tends to be better, which of course leads to some similar aspects as you mention from the skintone study.
    3107 days ago
    Very interesting! I have - literally - been yellow before so I have to note that too much color is not a good thing.
    3107 days ago
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