First sun protection pill hits the Kiwi market
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction dreams: a pill that protects you from the sun's burning rays.
A New Zealand-made dietary supplement is formulated to boost your resistance to sun damage, but health professionals are lukewarm on it.
The GO Sun UV Protect capsule is made from powdered grapefruit and rosemary extracts and other antioxidants. It is the first of the so-called "edible sunscreen" products to hit the New Zealand market.
The manufacturer, GO Healthy, says the supplement can improve resistance to sunburn and decrease the oxidation of skin cells, but advises users to always apply SPF sunscreen and cover up in times of high UV exposure.
The Cancer Society also warns that the supplement is no replacement for sunscreen.
"We like to market it as sun protection from the inside but it does not replace sunscreen," says Janeen Howard, the technical support manager for GO Healthy. "By using both, you're getting extra protection."
The key ingredient in the capsules is 100mg of powdered NutroxSun, a blend of grapefruit and rosemary extracts. An independent lab trial of NutroxSun in Italy in 2015 found the onset of sunburn was delayed by 30 percent after two months of daily use.
Subjects in that trial also reported decreased oxidation of skin cells, increased skin elasticity and reduced wrinkle depth.
Each GO Sun UV Protect capsule also contains 250mg of grape seed, an anti-inflammatory, and 6 mg of astaxanthin, a carotenoid that is said to reduce the damage caused by UV exposure.
Advantages of sun protection you swallow are that it lasts for 24 hours, is not affected by water or sweat, and protects all parts of the body, says Howard.
However, the Cancer Society advises that such products, already available overseas for about a year, are yet to be fully tested.
"Very early emerging evidence suggests that some of these products like powdered grapefruit and rosemary extracts may offer some photoprotection, though it's early days yet," says the Cancer Society's national health promotion and campaigns manager Shayne Nahu.
"They may, in conjunction with sunscreen, help protect you from the sun over a longer period of time, but we are awaiting further evidence to prove their effectiveness."
Dermatologist Dr Louise Reiche says a healthy diet incorporating citrus fruit, grapes, blueberries, cooked tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli and green tea can boost the body's ability to repair UV damage. She recommends we eat 10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day.
"Taking nicotinamide 500mg – for example Blackmore's Insolar tablets – twice daily helps reduce non-melanoma skin cancers, and has population-based studies supporting its use in those already suffering lots of skin cancers to slow the development of more," says Dr Reiche.
"Other agents such as GO Sun UV Protect may prove helpful in the same way, but there are insufficient studies to recommend that yet."