Not every blog post I do is an instant hit. The one I did yesterday about 5 a day for example was met with widespread indifference. Oh well. But it did remind me that there is another reason to eat fresh fruit and vegetables apart from simply being more healthy. They can also make you more attractive.
How does this work? In a fascinating paper published in the Journal of Primatology five years ago researchers revealed that they could assess what colour of skin people found to be healthiest. It is a very clever bit of work and I recommend it to all scientists as a great model for good experimental design.
If you want to, you can help with their research. There is a website that enables you to assess faces and form part of the trial.
(I had a go myself – it was a bit slow on my computer, possibly a poor connection my end, but was still fun.)
What they found was that redness was correlated with the perception of health. There was also a tendency for male faces to be preferred if they are darker as well as redder. Female faces are paler than male ones, and that is also a preference. The main things in the skin that affect the colour are melanin – which we all known about – and carotenoids.
So what has that got to do with your five a day? Well it turns out that you can increase the carotenoid level in your skin by eating carotenoid rich foods like tomatoes and carrots. In fact they have taken the work a bit further. They have shown that not only does the amount of carotenoid in your skin make your skin redder, but the effect is strong enough to be noticed and it has a stronger positive effect on your attractiveness than getting a tan does.
So the conclusion seems to be that while eating carrots to stay healthy is a good thing in itself, it also has some positive side effects as well. The man who is behind a lot of this work is Dave Perrett who has written a book on the subject. I will try to find the time to give it a read.
Carotenoid and melanin pigment coloration affect perceived human health