Increased life expectancy is a sign of our times, heralding the message that it’s not only important to be healthy and fit, but it is also equally important to look healthy and fit. Health and beauty have been connected to some extent for generations, but new dermatology studies are providing valid evidence that skin health is directly affected by nutrition.
Skin wrinkling, for instance, has been associated with food habits, showing that a high intake of vegetables, legumes and olive oil appear to be protective against cutaneous actinic damage. A higher intake of vitamin C and linoleic acid with a lower intake of fat and carbohydrates have shown improved skin appearance.
Psoriasis symptoms were found to improve with diets rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oil, possibly by acting in an anti-inflammatory fashion and modifying the fatty acid metabolism. Conversely, it has been established that severe psoriasis may lead to nutrient depletion, especially of protein, folate, and iron.
Hair loss is also affected by nutrition. Nutrients rich in antioxidants, primarily polyunsaturated fatty acids, zinc, taurine and plant polyphenols, have been shown to preserve a more balanced hair cycle, leading to decreased hair loss and increased hair density and improved hair quality.
Another condition, especially seen in industrial countries, is reactive skin. It is characterized by marked sensitivity of the skin to physical heat, cold and wind or chemical products used in ointments and occasionally by impaired ability for the skin barrier to recover. A specific probiotic called L. paracasei significantly decreased skin sensitivity.
Research in dermatology reveals numerous connections between nutrition and skin health. The following are excerpts that point to the benefits of achieving improved skin health with balanced nutrition:
- There is a connection between acne and high glycemic diets, as well as weak evidence for an association between dairy products and acne.
- Evidence in studies reveals that nutritional intervention using probiotics such as lactobacillus species exerts beneficial effects on the treatment and/or prevention of atopic disease.
- Early supplementation with y-linolenic acid in children at high risk tends to alleviate the severity of atopic dermatitis in later infancy.
- Extended fasting, low-energy, and vegetarian diets were shown to improve psoriasis symptoms in some studies, as were diets rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oil.
- B-carotene and lycopene, two efficient oxygen quenchers, have been shown to prevent sunburn in humans.
- Xerosis, alopecia, hair and nail fragility are frequent cutaneous signs of anorexia nervosa.
As dermatology research advances, it will, no doubt, continue to reveal new evidence of how nutrition plays a vital role in overall skin health.
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