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Can Red Wine Prevent Sunburn?

Scientists look at properties of the grape for fighting UV damage.

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Red wine and grapes.Red wine. It’s been associated with preventing heart disease and cancer, reducing inflammation from age-related disease, and extolled for a number of other health benefits. Studies continue to examine the properties of this centuries’ old elixir. Recent explorations into resveratrol (an ingredient found in red wine that has been linked to reducing bad cholesterol) have helped promote red wine’s status as heart-healthy. 

Following a recent publication in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, suddenly headlines are cropping up touting the latest health benefit of red wine: it may prevent sunburn? What can’t it do? Don’t toss your sunscreen just yet. If this all sounds too good to be true…it probably is.

First off, some studies have supported red wine’s heart-healthy benefits. But this doesn’t encourage excessive consumption, and experts don’t condone starting up a new habit of drinking red wine for the sake of “looking out for your heart.” That’s like loading up on butter because you heard substitutes were unsafe. The key is moderation. And drinking high amounts of red wine could cause severe damage (to your liver, your blood pressure, your heart, and on and on). 

Yes, it’s true that red wine contains resveratrol, a compound which comes from the skin of grapes. The benefits of resveratrol can also be found in grape juice and grapes themselves, as well as in other foods such as peanuts and blueberries. Here’s the thing: the in vitro study just published, from the University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Council, looked at how our skin can be protected against UV rays with the aid of “plant-derived antioxidants.” A sunburn, or tan, is a toxic reaction from overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. This study built off past studies, examining in this case: the grape. The study examined various polyphenolic fractions of the grape (polyphenols are antioxidants that may help protect the heart).   

Researchers found that flavanoids in grapes can stop the chemical reaction that causes cells to damage human skin. What researchers hope, based on their findings, is for the development of skin creams and products which will use flavonoids to help protect against UV damage.

As Marta Cascante, lead scientist in the study, explained, "This study supports the idea of using these products to protect the skin from cell damage and death caused by solar radiation, as well as increasing our understanding of the mechanism by which they act.”  

Now, if you still want to enjoy some red wine in moderation—for men, the average is two glasses per day; for women, it’s one—just don’t expect it to work wonders at the beach. Wear your sunscreen.  

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Tags: Latest Studies & Research

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About the Author

Amy is an Assistant Editor and writer at Healthline.com.

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