The research, by the Schools of Psychology and Biosciences at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), assesses what effect a carotenoid rich fresh fruit drink could have on skin and perceived attractiveness.
Lead researcher Dr Ian Stephen said: “There is a lot of research out there suggesting that people who look healthier actually are healthy. So hopefully we will be able to find out something about the health benefits of drinking a carotenoid rich smoothie as well as how it affects our perceived attractiveness.”
“If we discover that a smoothie a day does measurably and demonstrably improve the appearance of our skin hopefully that will encourage people to eat and drink more healthily.”
The relationship between skin carotenoid colouration and improved facial appearance has already been demonstrated in a western population by Dr Stephen; where he found that people who ate more fruit and vegetables each day had a more golden colour to their skin which, in follow up perceptual studies, made them look healthier and by extension more attractive.
This latest research compares two different health drinks: one smoothie made from carrots and a selection of underutilised Malaysian fruits while the control group received mineral water.
The students drank either a smoothie a day or the equivalent volume of mineral water for a duration of six weeks.
Recipe for success
Seven smoothies were chosen for the study each containing up to 50% underutilised fruit. 80 volunteers were recruited by PhD student Tan Kok Wei, who is running the study, and took part in a six week trial.
During that time measurements were taken of their body composition, dietary intake, skin colour and brightness. Although initial data suggests significant results, these will be scored by an independent group of experts before they are published.
Dr Brigitte A Graf, a nutrition scientist who designed the smoothies says: “My role is to monitor all the nutritional aspects of this study. It is important that bioactive food ingredients — in this case carotenoids — are absorbed from the food into the body.”
“If carotenoids from our smoothie are not absorbed they cannot travel into the skin. Together with Dr Soma Mitra we also assessed the background diet of all the participants before they were allowed to join the study.”
Carotenoids are natural lipophilic orange and yellow pigments present in most fruit and vegetables. β-carotene is one of the most studied carotenoids and known for its function as pro-vitamin A and dietary antioxidant.