Nutrients for sun protection

Written by Maya Butti | 7 February, 2022

sun beams through tree tops looking up

We're in the final month of summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, which means beach loving Australians are soaking up as many sunny days as possible.

As natural healthcare practitioners, we are known to tout the benefits of safe sun exposure to naturally increase our Vitamin D stores. This is an important recommendation as up to 50% of the world population is estimated to be Vitamin D deficient[i]. Improving Vitamin D status through sun exposure is supportive of our immune system, calcium absorption and mood, among other health benefits[i].

Excessive exposure to sun light can however contribute to sunburn, photo-aging and skin cancer[ii], as ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage the upper layer of the skin cells. This can cause DNA damage as UVA rays damage the skin’s membranes and UVB rays are absorbed by the DNA itself[iii].

Sunscreen and protective clothing are a first line of defences against sunburn, however as healthcare practitioners, we can provide our clients with information about sun protection beyond these defences.

Increasing antioxidant status may be useful in protecting against UVA and UVB radiation damage, and could be a beneficial adjunct to first-line sun protection. In particular, the following anti-oxidants have shown to be protective:

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)

EGCG, a potent polyphenol antioxidant, is known to protect the skin against UV damage, photo-aging, and suppress its carcinogenic effects[iv]. These polyphenols have shown to reduce the amount of apoptosis in sunburnt keratinocytes[v]. It has also shown to reverse the immunosuppressive effects of UV radiation[vi].

Food sources: Green tea, Ooolong tea, white tea, blackberries, carob

Resveratrol

Resveratrol has been shown to have chemo-protective qualities may lend its support in UV protection. Topical application of resveratrol 30mins prior to UVB radiation showed to decrease skin thickness. In vitro studies have shown that treatment with resveratrol post UV radiation provided 100% protection against UVA radiation and normalised superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase in keratinocytes[vii].

Food sources: Red wine, cranberries, cocoa, grapes, peanuts

Carotenoids

A placebo-controlled trial administering a mix of 3 primary carotenoids (β-carotene, lutein and lycopene) at 8 mg/d showed significantly increased protection from sunburn after 12 weeks of supplementation. 12 weeks with 24mg of carotenoids showed even greater protection[viii].

Food sources: Dunaliella salina, carrots, sweet potato, capsicum

Vitamin D

Ironically, Vitamin D has been shown to reduce damage to the skin from UV radiation. A 2017 pilot study showed that a single high dose of oral Vitamin D administered post-sun damage was able to reduce local inflammation from UV radiation. Doses of 100,000- 200,00iu showed reduced skin redness, reduced epidermal structure damage, and reduced inflammatory markers.

Food sources: Oily fish, egg yolk, mushrooms (especially after exposed to sunlight)

Interested in nutrition?

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References:

[i] Nair, Rathish, and Arun Maseeh. “Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin.” Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics vol. 3,2 (2012): 118-26. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

[ii] Skotarczak, K et al. “Photoprotection: facts and controversies.” European review for medical and pharmacological sciences vol. 19,1 (2015): 98-112.

[iii] Cancer Council. “What Happens to Your Skin When You Get Sunburnt?” Cancer Council, 26 Sept. 2017, www.cancer.org.au/blog/what-happens-to-your-skin-when-you-get-sunburnt.

[iv] Yusuf, Nabiha, et al. “Photoprotective Effects of Green Tea Polyphenols.” Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, vol. 23, no. 1, 2007, pp. 48–56. Crossref, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0781.2007.00262.x.

[v] Yusuf, Nabiha, et al. “Photoprotective Effects of Green Tea Polyphenols.” Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, vol. 23, no. 1, 2007, pp. 48–56. Crossref, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0781.2007.00262.x.

[vi] Yusuf, Nabiha, et al. “Photoprotective Effects of Green Tea Polyphenols.” Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, vol. 23, no. 1, 2007, pp. 48–56. Crossref, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0781.2007.00262.x.

[vii] Wen, Si, et al. “Role of Resveratrol in Regulating Cutaneous Functions.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2020, 2020, pp. 1–20. Crossref, doi:10.1155/2020/2416837.

[viii] Heinrich, Ulrike, et al. “Supplementation with β-Carotene or a Similar Amount of Mixed Carotenoids Protects Humans from UV-Induced Erythema.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 133, no. 1, 2003, pp. 98–101. Crossref, doi:10.1093/jn/133.1.98.


Maya Butti

Maya Butti graduated from Endeavour College in 2017 with a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine). Her philosophy is based on healthy eating and living for longevity. Since graduating, Maya has been doing a number of things including working in clinic, working in corporate wellbeing and now she is working at a supplement company and laboratory. Her areas of interest are sleep, stress, healthy eating, and weight management.

Read more by Maya Butti

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