New skin pigment test can shed light on low fruit and veggie intake

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Only one in 20 Australians consume the recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables. ©iStock
Only one in 20 Australians consume the recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables. ©iStock

Related tags Vegetables Fruit Nutrition Health

New technology that measures the colour and intensity of reflected light on skin pigments could help detect if people are consuming enough fruit and vegetables, new research by Curtin University in Australia has found.

The research, published in the Journal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism​, suggests that skin colour can be a clear indicator of whether a person has a high intake of fruit and vegetables. This is due to the presence of carotenoids, which found in a wide range of fruit and vegetables.

Lead author Master of Dietetics student Ms Georgia Bixley, from the School of Public Health at Curtin University, said the research uncovered a new way to assess someone’s consumption of fruit and vegetables.

“The aim of our study was to determine whether there was a connection between fruit and vegetable consumption, carotenoid intake and yellow skin colour in young Caucasian men, as Australian men are typically known to consume less fruit and vegetables than women,” she said.

“We were able to find this connection through a process called reflectance spectroscopy (RS), an emerging technique which measures the colour and intensity of reflected light on the skin pigments.

“Our research found that different body locations including the forehead, biceps, palm and soles of the feet on men with light coloured skin were the best predictors of fruit and vegetable intake.”

The study assessed the skin colour of 30 Caucasian men, aged between 18 and 30 years old, living in Perth.

Skin colour was assessed at eight sun-exposed and unexposed body locations, and a food frequency questionnaire was administered to assess fruit and vegetable intake over the past month.

The research found that skin yellowness is positively correlated with fruit and vegetable intake and carotenoid intake.

"We show proof of concept that skin yellowness is viable as a biomarker to predict F/V intake in young Caucasian men,"​ noted the study.

Low fruit intake

"This evidence supports findings from studies conducted in female populations and provides insight into the skin sites that are most likely to be viable in a practical setting.  

Co-author Dr Karin Clark, also from Curtin’s School of Public Health, explained further research was needed to examine the relationship, but the findings may be of interest to nutritionists and health professionals around Australia.

“Two thirds of Australians are currently overweight or obese, with only one in 20 people consuming the recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables,”​ Dr Clark said.

“Our research could play a key role in identifying people who have a low consumption of fruit and vegetables, and better understand their higher risk of chronic diseases."

“By conducting further research into this connection, it could open up the possibility of being able to predict someone’s fruit and vegetable intake from their skin colour, rather than relying on them to remember every meal they eat.”

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