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Tan, schman. For a better 'glow,' eat your veggies

Chris Pizzello / AP file

Scottish researchers may have poked a hole in the "Jersey Shore" motto "gym, tan, laundry." (Here, Snooki -- sorry, we mean Nicole Polizzi -- arrives at the 2010 Grammy Awards.)

Forget tanning. Loading up on fruits and veggies actually gives your skin a healthier, more attractive glow, a new Scottish study says. (Sorry, Snooki.)

"Attractiveness is very closely related to healthy appearance; they’re almost the same thing," explains Ian Stephen, who's currently an assistant professor of psychology at the Malaysia campus of the University of Nottingham, although he did the research for the study at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Stephen is the lead author of the study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior

Carrots really can turn your skin a yellowish, orangeish color; it's not just some blogger dude's gimmick. It's due to carotenoids, a naturally-occuring pigment found in many fruits and vegetables (not just carrots).

In an experiment, participants (all white, all undergrads) used a specially-designed computer program that allowed them to manipulate the skin tone of 51 photographed faces (also all white, all undergrads). They were instructed to make the faces look healthier, either by increasing the appearance of melanin (sun tan) or carotenoids (veggie tan). Most study participants slightly increased the melanin, but they really pumped up the carotenoids: the amount of increased carotenoid color they chose is equal to an extra five servings of fruits or vegetables a day, Stephen said.

A veggie tan beats a suntan. Who knew? 

At South Africa's University of Pretoria, a group of black, South African students used the same program to manipulate the skin tone of photographs of other black, South African students' faces, in another experiment included in the report. Like their white, Scottish counterparts, these students also chose the skin tone that "simulates not the fashion, and not the suntan, but the carotenoids," Stephen says.

But he still wouldn't recommend an all-carrot diet; while carotenoids are helpful to the immune system, too much can result in a skin tone that appears more jaundiced than golden. (Not a great look.)

What do you think of this study? Have we finally uncovered the secret to John Boehner's orange-y hue?

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