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Ways melanin affects your health

The colour of your skin is dependent on a pigment, melanin. The more melanin you have the darker your skin colour. Yet the effects of melanin on your health span beyond determining the skin colour.  So, before lightening your skin, here’s what you should know

1. Younger looking skin

‘Black don’t crack’, the saying goes. There is a scientific explanation to this observation that people with dark skin tend to have a youthful look even in their later years.  Darker skin shows the signs of aging slowly due to the pigment’s effect of reducing sun exposure. Having more melanin also delays the rate at which one develops wrinkles.

2. Better hearing/deafness

According to a 2017 study published by Oxford University, black people have a lower risk of hearing loss than whites. These differences are related to presence of inner ear melanin and cochlear melanocytes.

Darker skinned individuals tend to have higher levels of melanin forming cells – melanocytes in the  inner ear. Low levels or lack of cochlear melanocytes can result in cochlear impairment or hearing loss.

3. Aids in human reproduction

The dark pigmentation protects from DNA damage and absorbs the right amounts of UV radiation needed by the body, as well as protects against folate depletion. Folate is water soluble vitamin B complex which naturally occurs in green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, and citrus fruits.

Women need folate to maintain healthy eggs, for proper implantation of eggs, and for the normal development of placenta after fertilisation. Folate is needed for normal sperm production in men. Furthermore, folate is essential for foetal growth, organ development, and neural tube development.

4. Good eyesight

Melanin, which is present in the iris is responsible for giving the eyes its colour such as blue, brown, black and green. The more the melanin on the iris the darker the eye colour, and the less light enters into the eye. In essence, the darker you are the better the vision. Melanin also protects the ear from progressive hearing loss. It aids the removal of harmful chemical compounds caused by damage to the cochlea’s hair cells.

5. Parkinson’s disease

Melanin is present in the brain cells in the form of neoromelanin. The chemical gives certain parts of the brain their black colour. Neoromelanin is absent at birth and naturally increases as one ages with its production peaking at adolescence. It is responsible for balancing metals in the body by ensuring there isn’t too little or too much in the bloodstream.  Loss of pigmentation in certain parts of the brain is responsible for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

6. Stimulate and modulate the immune system

Melanin producing cells have an effect on the body’s immune system. World Health Organisation, indicates that UV radiation, is absorbed by a molecule located on the skin, which leads to activity in some of molecular and cellular factors of the immune system. They are involved in catching and eliminating pathogens and other foreign objects in the body.

7.  Neutralising harmful energy

Melanin has the capability to absorb a high amount of energy without producing a lot of heat. Experts say that melanin can absorb tremendous amounts of energy different kinds including of energy that from sunlight, X-ray and energy formed within cells during metabolism. The pigment is thought to have ability to neutralise the harmful effects of these energies.

8. Essential to brain, nerve, and organ function

Melanin is found in almost every organ of the body and is necessary for the brain and nerves to operate. In the brain, tissues with melanin include the medulla and pigment-bearing neurons within areas of the brainstem, such as the locus coeruleus and the substantia nigra.

9. Fights free radicals

Melanin performs the function of eliminating free radicals from the body. By absorbing ultra violet rays, the pigment prevents the photochemical formation of free radicals that can damage the DNA in the skin.  Free radicals damage on cells is responsible for diseases such as diabetes, cataracts, Alzheimer’s and dementia. The free radicals damage manifests through premature aging, wrinkles and age spots.

10. Albinism

Melanin is a compound derived from the amino acid, tyrosine. It provides pigment to most animals, including humans. People with little to no melanin in their skin suffer from a condition called albinism.

Albinism results from a deficiency in the enzyme required to produce melanin, causing a lack of pigmentation of the skin, eyes, ears and hair. People with albinism are at an increased risk for skin cancer because melanin acts as a natural sunblock, protecting your skin from the powerful UV rays of the sun.

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