Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found that people's skin color changed in just six weeks when they increased their fruit and vegetable consumption. The students in the study who ate the most produce turned yellower and slightly rosy. (Is that what they mean by a peachy complexion?) The study was published online in the journal PLoS One.
In the second part of the experiment, people were asked to rate the attractiveness of people in photos, some of which had been digitally altered to make them slightly yellower. The yellow-toned people were deemed to look healthier and more attractive. (Think a golden glow, not cirrhosis sallow.) When asked to pick the yellower face, people were able to distinguish a color difference equivalent to eating about two extra servings of fruit and vegetables a day. When they were asked to choose based on health and attractiveness, it was a little more difficult. The yellowness had to be increased to equal about three servings a day.
The color shift in skin correlated to the wavelengths for two naturally occurring food pigments: beta-carotene, the pigment that makes carrots orange, and lycopene, which gives tomatoes their rosy hue. The researchers looked for increases in both red and yellow, but found the yellow shift to be much stronger. But that could be because it may be harder to measure changes in rosiness because of fluctuations in the skin's blood flow, the scientists said. (All of the participants were Caucasians, which are as thick as thistles in Scotland.)
According to the study, "This carotenoid-based coloration contributes beneficially to the appearance of health in humans and is held to be a sexually selected cue of condition in other species." Translation: Eating more fruits and vegetables gives your skin a golden and rosy glow, which signals good health, which makes you look hotter to the opposite sex. Screw a healthier heart and lower cholesterol -- how's that for an incentive?
Carrots and apples could be the golden ticket to health and beauty. Or you could just eat a cheeseburger and tots (potatoes don't count as vegetables in the study) and pack the blush and bronzer on your chubby cheeks.
Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.