Another one of those little news tidbits that Mike finds throughout the day and posts on the home page had the most intriguing title: Chocolate as sunscreen.
Now you’re talking.
The thrust of the piece is that research has suggested that when we eat dark cocoa, the catechins (flavanoid antioxidant compounds) in it make their way into the upper skin layers and aggregate there, knocking off free radicals, thickening the dermal layer (read that combating wrinkles), and plumping and moisturizing the skin.
Cocoa. Who knew?
So were all those buckets of cocoa butter I slathered on in my salad days before I went out to brown myself to a turn…I mean tan…actually protecting my skin? Maybe so. Certainly cocoa butter has had a folk lore reputation for being good for the skin for eons and is known to contain abundant antioxidants to protect its delicate oils from going rancid.
However, in this particular study the skin benefits came from actually consuming the dark cocoa, not rubbing it on, although the authors did speculate that it might also be beneficial to add these concentrated flavanoids to skin products as well, basically another angle that deserved a research look. To my knowledge, to date that look hasn’t been taken–or at least hasn’t been published.
I can’t think of tanning in my youth without remembering some of the bizarre concoctions we came up with to promote that golden glow–all learned fifth hand from that prolific purveyor of useful information:
As in somebody said you could get a darker tan if you add iodine to your baby oil.
As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. We actually did it. Or tried to.
Iodine is, of course, water-based. Baby oil is precisely what its name says it is and never the two shall mix. Did it work? Who knows. Maybe it prevented our developing goiters.
But whatever it did or didn’t do in the way of promoting a glorious tan, we did get our exercise trying to shake it into a relative suspension. If only I’d known then what I know now about food chemistry, I could have popped an egg yolk or a teaspoon or two of prepared mustard into it and made a nice emulsion–actually sort of a toxic vinaigrette. Now that I think of it, perhaps it’s fortunate that I didn’t know or I would surely have tried it.
The things we did for beauty in our misbegotten youth. Help me!
I recall, at about age 16 or 17, standing in the check out line at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store with my economy sized bottle of Johnson’s Baby Oil and a big bottle of iodine, when I overheard the lady ahead of me say that somebody (there’s that source again) heard from somebody who had been there (and that’s not just any old somebody) that in St. Tropez they used olive oil and iodine to get that famous St. Tropez tan. I couldn’t trade my bottle of powdery-fresh-scented baby oil for one of Pompeian olive oil fast enough.
Let me assure you that smearing that concoction all over your skin gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘salad days’ .
But enough of nostalgia; back to chocolate.
The study suggested that the protective and rejuvenating benefits cocoa imparts to the skin come from consuming pretty hefty doses of the flavanols; you’d need to eat about 3 ounces a day of dark chocolate. That might be good for the skin, but not for what the skin covers, since the bitterness of the cocoa has to be tempered with something and that something is usually a lot of sugar, not to mention containing hundreds of calories.
Amazingly, however, the Mars candy company has come up with a way of processing cocoa that preserves the flavanoid compounds which are depleted significantly by most processing methods. Higher flavanoid content means that much less cocoa can get the job done. So far, there’s only one product that contains this “super cocoa” and that’s the Cocoa Via bars they mention in the article.
We tried them when they were first released in limited fashion a year or two ago. They’re quite good, though not really low carb (nor intended to be.) But because they’re small (a good thing) each one only has about 15 grams of carb. Too much for an intervention level snack, but doable on maintenance. Mike and I occasionally split one as a little cocoa treat with an afternoon cup of coffee.
Who knew that by doing it we were plumping our skin, protecting it from free radicals, and helping to prevent sunburn. How times have changed since my salad days.