Research points to food additive compound as effective sunscreen

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Dr. Donna Zhang and Dr. Georg Wondrak - Univeristy of Arizona
Dr. Donna Zhang and Dr. Georg Wondrak - Univeristy of Arizona

Related tags Ultraviolet Cancer

New research from scientists at the University of Arizona, College of Pharmacy, shows evidence that a compound found in the food additive annatto could be effective in protecting against UV rays.

The compound, known as bizin, was found to prevent the formation of cancer cells and skin damage caused by UV radiation in mice, the early stages of the research shows.

However, the research stressed that rather than being used for topical applications such as conventional sunscreens, bixin is found to be most effective when injected, pointing to the possibility of an orally-taken form being developed if further research is successful.

Bixin as a food coloring

Bixin is a bright reddish orange compound that is extracted from annatto, which is a naturally-derived condiment and food coloring from the seeds of the achiote fruit.

The findings from the research have been published in an article in the peer reviewed journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, titled : ”System Administration of the Apocarotenoid Bixin Protects Skin against Solar UV-Induced Damage through Activation of Nrf2."

Authored by lead scientists Georg Wondrak, PhD, associate professor and Donna Zhang, PhD, professor, the article highlights how Dr Wondrak’s investigations had identified a compound that activates the Nrf2 pathway. Upon making this discovery he called on Dr. Zhang to help gauge if the compound had cancer-preventive properties.

Mice injected with the compound

The study itself saw mice injected with bixin and uninjected mice all exposed to UV radiation, which resulted in the mice treated with bixin experiencing much less severe skin damage.

The fact that the bixin is administered as a nutritional treatment is the unique element of the research, Dr. Wondrak claims, preventing skin damage from the inside out by inducing skin cells to make protective antioxidants and repair factors.

Although the compound does not prevent skin cancer, it has a significant function to prevent it forming in the first place, and comes in the form of a commonly consumed food substance.

The next stage of the research will be to take it beyond mice and to discover whether or not bixin has the same prevention against the effects of UV radiation in humans.

Related topics Formulation & Science Skin Care

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