Eating grapes may protect against UV damage to skin

person holding grapes

UV damage to the skin is caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or from artificial sources such as tanning beds. UV rays can cause various skin problems, including sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.

A recent study highlights the potential of grapes in photoprotection.

A recent study published in the journal Antioxidants showed that eating grapes can protect the skin from UV damage. Study participants who consumed 2 ¼ cups of grapes daily for two weeks showed increased resistance to sunburn. The study also found a potential correlation between gut and skin, as participants who had UV resistance also had unique microbiomic and metabolomic profiles. The study suggests that natural compounds called polyphenols found in grapes may be responsible for these protective effects.

This new study reinforces previous research in this area. In this survey with 29 human volunteers, researchers looked at the impact of consuming whole grape powder – equivalent to 2 ¼ cups of grapes per day – for 14 days against photodamage caused by UV light. The subjects’ skin response to UV light was measured before and after consuming grapes for two weeks by determining the threshold dose of UV radiation that induces visible redness after 24 hours – the minimum erythema dose (MED). Additionally, metabolomic analysis of gut microbiome, blood and urine samples was undertaken.

In the end, a third of the subjects demonstrated resistance to UV following the consumption of grapes, and these same subjects showed significant differences at the level of the microbiome and the metabolome compared to the non-responders. Notably, the same three urinary metabolites were depressed in the UV resistant group. One metabolite in particular (2′-deoxyribose) is a strong indicator of photodamage reduction and suggests unique genetic profiles relevant to personalized medicine.

Additionally, three of the UV resistant subjects showed a durable response where UV protection remained after returning to no grape consumption for an additional four weeks. This work suggests that part of the population is able to resist sunburn following the consumption of grapes and that there is a correlation between the intestine-skin axis and UV resistance.

Over 3 million Americans are affected by skin cancer each year, primarily due to sun exposure. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer before the age of 70. Most cases of skin cancer are associated with exposure to UV rays from the sun: approximately 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanomas, respectively. In addition, it is estimated that 90% of skin aging is caused by the sun.

John Pezzuto – lead author of the paper and professor and dean of the University of Western New England in Springfield, MA – notes that “‘Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food’ goes back to the days of Hippocrates. Now, after 2500 years, as evidenced by this human study conducted with edible grapes, we are still learning the reality of this statement.

Reference: “Short-term grape consumption decreases UV-induced skin erythema” by John M. Pezzuto, Asim Dave, Eun-Jung Park, Diren Beyoğlu, and Jeffrey R. Idle, November 30, 2022, Antioxidants.
DOI: 10.3390/antiox11122372

The study was funded by the California Table Grape Commission. The donor was not involved in the preparation of the document; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in writing the report; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

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