Skin carotenoid coloration has been proposed as a valid cue to health in humans, reflecting fruit and vegetable intake, and enhancing apparent health. Supplementation with a carotenoid-rich fruit and vegetable smoothie affects skin color, but it is not known if this skin color change enhances healthy appearance. In three experiments, we examine the effects of skin color change induced by supplementation with a carotenoid-rich fruit smoothie (25. mg carotenoids/d) on the apparent health of Malaysian Chinese faces. In experiment 1, observers were asked to identify the healthier looking of pairs of photographs of the same subject taken pre- and post-supplementation (or pre- and post-placebo), choosing the pre-supplementation (or pre-placebo) images. When confounding due to facial expression was eliminated in experiment 2, observers showed no preference for unmodified pre-supplementation photograph or the same image with skin color manipulated to simulate a level of smoothie-induced color change associated with 4. weeks of supplementation. In experiment 3, observers manipulated the skin color of face photographs along the smoothie-induced color change axis to optimize healthy appearance. Observers chose to induce a color change approximately equivalent to one third of the change induced by daily consumption of our carotenoid rich smoothie. This suggests that the skin color change induced by the supplementation enhanced apparent facial health, however the dose and duration of the supplementation overshot the optimal healthy-looking color of Malaysian Chinese skin. This suggests that there is an optimal carotenoid color for healthy appearance, and that this optimal level may be constrained by preferences for averageness, by the association between very yellow skin and ill health, or by negative health impacts of very high doses of carotenoids.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Evolution and Human Behavior|
|Early online date||1 Mar 2017|
|Publication status||Published - Jul 2017|