Among the main ways to prevent photo-damage to the skin are avoiding sun exposure and using sunscreen on a regular basis. While effective, these strategies are not always practical to implement.
As one of the richest natural sources of antioxidant flavanols, cacao has shown promising, yet still not well understood, photo-aging and UV-radiation protective effects.1
As such, the purpose of this study was to determine whether high-flavanol cocoa supplementation can improve photo-aged facial skin in women in a longer, 24-week time period.
Researchers from several research facilities in South Korea have conducted this long randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial on 64 healthy females.
All participants between the ages of 43 and 86 and had visible wrinkles (grade 2 or higher). Once they were randomly assigned to one of two groups, they received the following treatments:
The cocoa group received a daily beverage containing 4 g of fat-reduced cocoa powder with high amounts of flavanols (320 mg daily), mixed with 150-200 mL of hot water.
The placebo group received a nutrient-matched cocoa-flavored beverage without flavanols.
Researchers measured facial wrinkles in the crow's feet area and skin elasticity on the cheek before the study as well as at weeks 12 and 24.
After 24 weeks, the severity of skin wrinkles showed significant improvements in the cocoa group than in the placebo group, particularly in terms of wrinkle depth.
There were also greater improvements in skin elasticity in women receiving cocoa beverages relative to those consuming the placebo. These effects were noticeable as early as at 12 weeks into the study.
Participants reported no side effects in either of the groups.
What Does this Mean?
Researchers in this study have shown that daily consumption of cacao's flavanols can improve skin wrinkles and elasticity in photo-aged women.
They suggest that because the photo-aging effects of cocoa flavanols are mild, they are mainly recommended for preventative purposes, rather than curative ones.
- The Journal of Nutrition, Cocoa Flavanol Supplementation Influences Skin Conditions of Photo-Aged Women: A 24-WeekDouble-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Trial, 2016
- Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. (2011). Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Retrieved November 12, 2020 from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ars.2010.3697