A new study has shown that a fruit drink developed by NASA to protect astronauts from radiation, known as AS10, dramatically reduces wrinkles, blemishes and sun damage after four months.
Visia photographs – which reveal the condition of the skin below the surface by using different types of light exposure – were taken of 180 participants at the start of the trial, and again after four months of drinking two shots of AS10 a day. By the end UV spots were reduced by 30% and wrinkles by 17%.
AS10 was developed as a nutritional supplement for astronauts to protect them from the damaging effects of high levels of radiation outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
The drink contains a blend of fruits including cupuacu (a Brazilian fruit from the cacao plant family), acai, acerola, prickly pear and yumberry, which all provide vitamins and phytochemicals – compounds known to block the harmful effects of radiation. Other ingredients are grape, green tea, pomegranate and vegetables.
Radiation particles alter oxygen molecules in the body to create reactive oxygen species (ROS) – so-called “free radicals” which damage cells in a process known as oxidative stress. This process has been linked to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. The toxic molecules are also thought to play a role in the skin ageing process.
ROS are created naturally within the body as cells generate energy, but also through environmental factors such as chemicals and ultraviolet light from the sun – the strongest stress to skin. Mobile phone radiation, cigarette smoke and alcohol also generate ROS.
“Think of them as little Pac-men taking bites out of molecules that are essential for cells to function,” says Dr. Aaron Barson, the nutritional scientist from Utah, US, who carried out the AS10 study after patients reported dramatic improvement from the drink.
AS10 is thought to improve skin condition because the drink’s large quantities of antioxidants ward off oxidative stress, allowing the skin to heal naturally. Antioxidants attach themselves to ROS and neutralize them before they cause damage.
Dr. Aaron Barson says: “The skin is the first body tissue to be exposed to UV rays and we know it is sensitive to oxidative stress. Our study shows it greatly benefits from a reduction in this stress. The effects of oxidative stress on the skin can be quickly modified and the skin can heal itself by drinking AS10.”
He suggests that the results may have been even better had the trial been conducted during the winter, when exposure to ultraviolet light would have been less.
A second, larger study is planned this summer to investigate for how long the effects last and whether skin condition reaches a plateau or deteriorates once the drink is no longer consumed.
The main drawback is the high price of the drink. The women in the trial drank a sherry glass – 60ml – of AS10 a day. At $50 per 750ml bottle, the cost was just under $500 over the four months.