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Golden Glow

How to be more attractive by eating carotenoid rich fruit and vegetables rather than tanning for healthy looking skin.

September 12, 2011 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited



 The reason. the peacock looks like this  and the peahen looks like this, is because of sexual selection. The females prefer males with the most elaborate displays. How does this make sense evolutionarily? How can appearance offer insight into the health of a potential mate.

Having such ornate, excessive plumage is risky. The poor peacock can hardly get off the ground. And this is hardly effective camouflage against predators. And so the fact that the peacock could survive despite such costly ornamentation offers a sense of how robust the bird’s genetics must be. So natural selection might favor females attracted to that sort of thing.

So are you just born attractive or not? Well some species use diet to increase their sexual attractiveness.  Great tits prefer carotenoid-rich caterpillars  which play an role in plumage pigmentation; their breasts become brighter yellow, which is more attractive to potential mates, and a signal of how good they may be at procuring food and is a reflection of their health status, since yellow carotenoids like lutein are so health-promoting. So scientists wondered if the same phenomenon could be found in the human species.

 Published in the International Journal of Primatology, “Facial skin coloration affects perceived health of human faces.”  “The face plays a significant role in human interactions, including mate choice.” So the researchers took digital photographs of caucasian men and women and allowed people to turn a dial to manipulate various color values until they came up with what they perceived to be the healthiest looking color, and both men and women preferred increased yellow, the proverbial golden glow.  In other words, "greens to be gorgeous."

 “We suggest that the healthy appearance of skin yellowness may be attributable to dietary carotenoid deposition in the skin. This suggests that carotenoids, which are involved in health signaling and sexual selection in many species of birds and fish, may also affect the appearance of health in humans.

 In fact “It is a popular view that suntanning enhances the healthy and attractive appearance of Caucasian faces, but this research suggests that any benefit to health appearance from tanning is due to the associated increase in skin yellowness, and that if you separate it out people actually prefer the lighter but yellower skin, so better than a tanning bed to improve our healthfulness and attractiveness is a bed, of greens.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the 30 other videos on phytonutrients. Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Optimum Nutrition RecommendationsEating Green to Prevent CancerThe Anti-Wrinkle Diet, Treating Sensitive Skin From the Inside Out, and Diet and Cellulite 

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the 30 other videos on phytonutrients. Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Vignesh Doraiswamy

    As much as I want to thank you for that email you sent me about your site, I think I’ve spent more time here watching videos that studying for med school this weekend!Haha,just kidding but this website has great and informative stuff! I’ve already shared with nearly everyone I know.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      A healthy addiction I can assure you! :) Hopefully some decent clinical nutrition will help your future patients more then all the Kreb’s cycle reiterations combined. Please do share the site with your colleagues and let me know if you have any questions as you progress through training.

  • nycspg

    Which foods are best for this healthy glow ?? :)

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Nouh nailed it–see below! :)

  • Nouh Alaoui

    dark greens ;) ??!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Dark green leafies indeed! More at (and in the video today I specifically call out kale!)

      • Tan Truong

         Incidentally, I’ve greatly increased my kale consumption over the last three weeks. Yay.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Optimum nutrition recommendations!

  • Marius Aglen

    Omg, I eat spinach!! Now it makes a lot of sense all the flirty looks I get when I buy groceries, yay.

  • Laura Thomas

    Do you have any idea of which carotenoids in particular may have this effect? Thanks!

    • Toxins

      If your looking for good whole plant food sources of carotenoids, orange flesh sweet potatoes, greens and carrots can provide more then enough carotenoids to see this effect.

  • Sebastian Tristan

    Great tits?

  • Madison_Marie

    This is giving me pause…I have no desire to have orangy/yellowy/tan skin…particularly on my face. What about the coveted alabaster in centuries past…. maybe the yellowness of the skin was chosen in these studies because of changed in cultural preferences.

  • Nikky

    Anything special for facial pigmentation and melasma?

  • Stewart

    Look, this is serious. If it becomes known that eating healthy will make you more attractive, then we may well have the key for adolescent dietary improvement that could well alter the health profile of generations to come. Teens are immortal. At least I was at that age but being more attractive to women. WOW!
    I went with WFPBD for all the mundane things like avoiding arthritis, cancer, heart disease, et cetera. Had I known sooner about becoming a “babe magnet” I almost certainly would make it to 100+….