Cocoa Flavanols May Improve Sun-Damaged Skin

Research from 2015 found that cocoa flavanols may help improve and combat photo-aging—skin damage caused by sun exposure. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition and included 62 women from Korea who were between the ages of 43 and 86 and had visible facial wrinkles. The women were randomly divided into two groups: one group drank a cocoa beverage containing 320 mg of cocoa flavanols every day; the other group drank a placebo beverage every day. Researchers measured the women’s skin for roughness and wrinkles, elasticity, and hydration at the beginning of the study, after 12 weeks, and after 24 weeks. Here's what they found:

  • Skin roughness improved by an average of 8.7% in the cocoa group, while skin roughness only improved by an average of 1.3% in the placebo group.
  • Skin elasticity also improved more in the cocoa group than in the placebo group.
  • The two groups showed no differences in changes in skin hydration and in the skin’s ability to act as a protective barrier.

It’s important to remember that the cocoa product used in this study was “high-flavanol” and that other cocoa products may not contain similar levels of flavanols. Since cocoa flavanols are mostly found in cocoa solids, it may come as no surprise that cocoa powder (especially unprocessed, or “unDutched” cocoa powder) and dark chocolate typically have higher flavanol content than chocolate syrups and milk chocolate. Because of variations in processing methods, an ounce of dark chocolate may have anywhere from 30 to 200 mg of cocoa flavanols. So, when you’re out chocolate shopping, look for products with the highest percentage of cocoa to get the most flavanols for your buck—and your skin.

Source: Journal of Nutrition

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