Sunscreen is great for protecting your skin. But it turns out eating a diet rich in colorful fruit and vegetables can go a long way too.
A new study is suggesting that vitamin A intake may lower the chances for squamous cell skin carcinoma by 15 percent, giving it an essential role in skin health.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it’s stored in fat cells. You have to be careful with fat-soluble vitamins because they present the opportunity for toxicity. Getting too much—which is almost always the case when supplementation—can put you in harm’s way. Getting more than 10,000 IU of vitamin A, for example, can boost the risk for osteoporosis and bone fracture. These adverse effects are unlikely to occur when high levels of vitamin A are consumed through food.
Found in colorful fruits and vegetables, vitamin A is highly available in cantaloupe, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, sweet red peppers, and spinach. It is also found in black-eyed peas and animal foods like dairy, fish, and meat.
Researchers followed 125,000 Americans and noted that those with the highest levels of vitamin A intake were at much lower risk for squamous skin cell carcinoma. Over a 15-year follow up period, they noted that average vitamin A intake was around 7,000 IU per day at the lower end. The higher-end took in about 21,000 IU, with the majority coming by way of dietary sources, not supplements.
It was also apparent that supplemental intake of vitamin A was not associated with lower risk. Moreover, they observed people with higher levels of vitamin A intake were more likely to exercise and less likely to consume alcohol and caffeine.
Squamous cell carcinoma is rather common, and will likely affect 11 percent of Americans. It is most common in areas with high sun exposure, like the head and face.
Of course, eating more vitamin A is not a surefire way to protect your skin from carcinoma. This study was observational and only looked at one type of skin illness. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that in addition to boosting natural vitamin A intake to keep skin healthy, you should also:
- Apply sunscreen daily and re-apply as needed.
- Seek shade when possible.
- Wear protective clothing (hats, long sleeves, etc.)